General Morgan waited patiently at his desk, his paws folded in his
lap, his eyes focused on the door barely visible in the darkness outside
the ceiling lamp in the center of the room. Finally, someone knocked
twice and the old bear instinctively stood up. "Come in" he
ordered, and the door slowly opened. A guard, a racoon armed with an
M-16 stood in the doorway.
"General Morgan" the guard said humbly. "The patient
Morgan nodded, a pleased expression on his face. "Good. Please,
bring him in." The guard nodded and disappeared back out the door.
He and another returned pushing a metal plank held almost upright, which
was covered in white cloth, the outline of a body clearly visible underneath.
A pair of white bowling shoes peeked out from underneath, held into
place by two pairs of restraints. Above them, a black leather belt kept
his ankles restrained. Two more crossed horizontally over his shins
and two more at his thighs. His pelvis and hands, however, were concealed
by a metal plank that fit tightly over them, preventing movement of
any kind. Further up, three more belts crossed over his arms and abdomen,
two of which crossed over his heart before returning to bind his shoulders.
His neck was also held back by a belt that barely permitted him to breathe.
His head was the only part of his body not concealed by the white sheets.
The prisoner wore a black hockey mask with a steel lining that locked
into place against the plank. There were two small holes at his nostrils,
but his mouth was completely sealed over and his eye holes were covered
by two steel plates held together from the inside. Up above where the
mask met the metal frame, there was a small latch that also reached
under the mask. Because of this, not an inch of the prisoner was visible.
Morgan stepped out from behind his desk, now facing the blind prisoner
directly. "De-blind him" he ordered. At this, the first guard
cautiously approached from behind, gripped the latch atop the mask,
and pulled it back. As he did this, the metal plates over the prisoner's
eyes rose back into the mask, allowing him to see who stood before him.
The eyes that stared through the mask at him were an icy blue and shaped
like that of a cat's.
"Hello Terry" Morgan said with a smug grin. "I trust
you know who I am?"
The prisoner, Terry as Morgan had called him, said nothing. All Morgan
had for a response was the cold stare from his unblinking eyes.
"I'll take that as a yes" Morgan continued. "You should
also know why you're here. Can you elaborate on that for me Terry?"
Once again, Terry was silent. Morgan frowned and continued. "I
can already see you don't intend on cooperating. That's okay with me;
I half expected that." He motioned to the two soldiers on guard.
"You can leave now."
The two guards exchanged glances. "Seriously? You want us to leave
you... With him?"
"Yes. Wait outside until I give the order." The two soldiers
nodded and turned to the door. They looked unsure of it was safe, but
they nearly collided with each other on the way out; it was clear enough
they had no desire to be anywhere near Morgan's guest. With them gone,
Morgan went back to his desk and took a remote control out of the top
"I suppose I'll never understand what possessed you to betray us"
said Morgan. "But I can live with that. I have no desire to know
what fills your twisted mind." He pressed the red button on the
upper left. A section of the wall off to his left slid open, revealing
a blank TV screen. "You do, however, know something that I would
care to know. Regardless of how stone cold a killer you are, you should
remember a man named Kletain. He was one of the brightest bio-technicians
available, but he had a tremendous fear of failure, so he kept most
of his theories to himself, testing them over and over again to make
sure they were accurate." He shrugged. "Of course, that was
all before you murdered him... Though in a way, that was exactly what
we were waiting for." He put his gloved hands on Terry's constrained
shoulders. "I'm convinced you're a psycho, but I also know you
were smart enough to carry some insurance for when we finally did catch
you. We found the black box from Kletain's laboratory. All of Kletain's
files were copied before you set the place on fire." He gripped
the cloth around Terry's shoulders forcefully. "Listen carefully
Terry. We want those files, and while keeping your mouth shut has kept
you alive this long, that will not be the case for much longer. We'd
sooner erase Kletain's life's work than allow a psycho to stay alive."
Terry's eyes blinked. His expression was cold, but at least Morgan knew
he was listening.
"We're willing to make a bargain" Morgan continued. "You
tell us where the discs are and we'll not only let you go, but we'll
protect you from anyone that may have hired you to copy Kletain's files
in the first place." He held up the remote and hit the red button
again. The screen flickered and portrayed snow. "Unfortunately,
if you refuse, you will be subject to torture. And don't think you can
withstand whatever we have in mind; some of the finest artists I've
ever seen make their accommodation right here in this very building.
Resist all you want, but eventually it will lead to this." He entered
a series of numbers from the remote which appeared in the lower-lefthand
corner: 3591 ENTER
The screen flickered for a moment, then a clear picture of a leopardess
on her knees with her hands cuffed behind her back. Dwarfing her entirely
was one of the most horrifying sights both Terry and Morgan had ever
laid their eyes upon. Morgan reached out with the remote and paused
"Judging by the size of your eyes..." he said, wiping his
forehead with a slightly coffee-stained napkin from atop his desk. "I'd
say you're already familiar with Diartigan. In dragon terms Diartigan
and I don't go very far back, but he and I have been associates since
before you were born. We don't always get along, but as your about to
see, he's always been willing to help me make dangerous felons disappear."
He pushed play and the video started up again.
As soon as Diartigan, the black dragon himself, appeared on the screen,
the girl leaped to her feet and tried to run, but she was wearing bowling
shoes just like Terry's, which slid on the damp floor until she fell
on her face, not having her hands to break her fall. Diartigan crept
up behind her, his massive head shadowing over her, reached down at
her with a clawed hand, and severed her cuffs at the center of the chain.
Instantly, the girl pushed herself away from the ground and tried to
run, her shoes skidding along the floor, until Diartigan snapped his
jaws around one of her legs. She turned back at him and swung out with
her left hand, the severed link of her cuffs catching Diartigan in the
eye. It obviously caused him pain but it only provoked him into throwing
her up into the air. She somersaulted limply and was caught by the upper
torso in Diartigan's powerful jaws. Finally, Diartigan reached out with
his serpent-like tongue and wrapped it around the girls kicking legs
and forced her entirely into his mouth. He swallowed hard and smiled,
a small lump apparent in his throat.
Morgan (who had his eyes sealed tightly during the film) reached out
and pressed the red button again, the walls sliding back into place
and concealing the screen. He loosened his tie and wiped his forehead
"I imagine you wouldn't like that" said Morgan. "That's
normally what happens to anyone that kills even a fraction of what you
have. But you are a very lucky man Terry. You simply turn over the discs
with Kletain's files and we'll wipe your record clean. Doesn't that
sound like a fair deal?"
The two eyes narrowed from behind the mask.
Morgan's expression dropped.
"Guards!" Morgan called.
One of the guards opened the door and peeked in. "Sir?"
"Remove this creature" Morgan sneered. "And inform the
doctors I have need of their services once again."
The guard blinked. "You mean-"
"I'll not say it again" Morgan hissed. "Get this creature
out of here!"
On instant, the two guards came in, grasped Terry's carrier by the handles
and pushed him out the door. Moments later, one of the guards came back.
"What is it?" said Morgan, now sounding very irritated.
"Its about Terastas" said the guard. "You told me to
call the doctors, so does that mean we're keeping him alive?"
Morgan slumped in his chair and sighed. "Yes. Terastas is very
dangerous, but he's not stupid. If Kletain's discs had the formula for
something like a vaccine or a new fuel source, Terastas wouldn't have
kept his mouth shut for as long as he has. Whatever Terastas is hiding
is very dangerous. Exactly what we've been waiting for." He looked
up at the guard. "Anything else you require?"
The guard saluted unsteadily. "No sir." He turned his tail
Terastas was rolled into his cage and abandoned in his harnesses.
The shields were down over his eyes and his restraints were tightened
before the two guards hastily made their way out the door. Moments later,
a man with a skunk-like face wearing a lab coat stepped through the
door. He had a needle full of black fluid in his gloved hands and a
dry expression on his face.
"Hello Terry" he said dryly. "I know you can hear me
through all that restraint. After all, the only thing you've done for
the past two weeks is listen." He unlocked the door to Terastas'
cage and lifted up the latches so the prisoner could see. "Morgan
wanted me to assume torture right away, but..." He looked Terastas
right in the eye and patted him playfully on the shoulder. "Well,
to tell you the truth, I'm a big fan of your work." He reached
up to the top screw that held Terastas' mask to the table and slowly
undid it. "A work of art like yourself should not be treated with
such disrespect. Your face deserves to be known."
He undid the screws and slowly removed the mask.
He was almost what the doctor had expected, and yet at the same time
the exact opposite. Terastas was a feline, a white tiger to be precise,
which was exactly what he had expected him to be. On the other hand,
while the stories floating around about Terastas were those of a savage
creature that bit his the heads off his victims and who's fur had been
permanently stained red with blood... The tiger that looked back at
him didn't look anything like a psycho killer.
He looked innocent. He looked afraid.
The doctor sighed and shook his head. "Well your not what I expected"
he admitted. "But... My god, this is still a dream come true for
me." He paced around Terastas, who's eyes followed him nervously.
"I've been following your progress for a long time Terry; I'm your
biggest fan." He stopped pacing in front of Terastas and smiled
at him. "That's why I'm willing to make you an offer. An offer
entirely separate from Morgan's." He put his hands on Terastas'
shoulders. "If you refuse to cooperate, Morgan will eventually
turn you over to Diartigan to do as he wishes. However, if I pronounce
you dead, that won't happen. Diartigan is the true man in charge here,
and he only disposes of live subjects. All deceased subjects are sent
strait to the incinerators, but since that's specifically my department,
I could always arrange for a body to be delivered elsewhere.
"If I pronounce you dead, I can get you out of here Terry, and
you won't need to turn in Kletain's files to do so. Do you know what
I want instead?"
He leaned in closer and smiled.
"Teach me Terry. Teach me... How to be like you."
Terastas looked around nervously for a moment, then looked the doctor
strait in the eye and gently beckoned him closer with a tilt of his
"Oh, is that it?" the doctor whispered, grinning madly. "Yeah,
big secret, isn't it- everybody wants to be like you!" He leaned
in close, his ear just inches away from Terastas' lips. "C'mon
Terry. Tell me what I wanna' hear."
Terastas leaned in closer and whispered:
"Stop calling me Terry."
The two guards waited outside. Neither one spoke for hours, but they
did occasionally exchanged glances.
"You know what time it is?" one finally asked the other.
The guard looked at his watch. "Almost midnight. Ten minutes and
we can get the hell out of here." He was silent for a moment. "Has
it ever been this quiet during a torturing?"
"No" said the other. "Maybe he's mute."
The door they were guarding suddenly swung open, taking both of them
by surprise. The doctor stormed past them, not even acknowledging their
"Any luck?" one of the guards asked. The doctor didn't respond.
Instead he went down the hallway, slamming the door behind him.
"I guess that's a no" said the other.
Morgan was informed that they had met with no success in breaking
Terastas. Without further delay, Morgan picked up the phone and dialed
#9 on the speed dial.
"Diartigan" he said calmly. "We have a prisoner for you
to dispose of."
"About time" said the grim voice on the other line. "Who?"
"A cereal killer named Terastas" said Morgan.
"Terastas?!" There came a low rumbling of approval from the
other line. "Yes... Send him down immediately."
"He's already on his way. They should arrive any-"
The sounds of clanging metal sounded in the distance, indicating that
the doors to Diartigan's layer were opening.
"Speak of the devil" said Diartigan. "Love the way you
packaged him. Were you aware this was a special occasion?"
Morgan blinked. "No. We're just taking precautions."
Diartigan laughed. "Of course. Just precautions."
Morgan nodded. "I'll leave the two of you alone then. Till next
time." Diartigan's line went dead and Morgan hung up the phone.
He sighed deeply and slumped into his chair, cursing Kletain under his
breath for not sharing his ideas. Everything Kletain had accomplished,
he had kept secret; there was absolutely nothing they could base further
research on. With Terastas dead, everything would start from scratch.
He fell into a trance which ended just before midnight when his phone
"Hello?" he said a little tiredly.
"Morgan, you have a lot of explaining to do!" Diartigan's
voice roared. "Didn't we have a discussion about this before?!
I desire fresh meat. Not leftovers!"
"Don't play dumb! You sent me a corpse Morgan. Were it Terastas,
I wouldn't mind, but it isn't. He doesn't even have a face!"
"But... But I could've sworn I..."
Something suddenly clicked in his head that nearly gave him a heart
The alarms sounded, but not soon enough. They found the doctor's face
in the wastebasket at the front door. Two guards were found unconscious
in the bathroom, stripped of their weapons and spare rounds, and Morgan's
Lexus was no longer in its parking space.
Shortly after, Morgan was summoned to Diartigan's layer. The two guards
escorted Morgan inside and then broke for the door, leaving Morgan behind.
It was pitch black, all except for a white light that shine down directly
on Morgan but kept all else in darkness. He could see nothing, but he
could hear a low rumbling in the distance that was Diartigan's breath.
"Morgan" Diartigan bellowed from the darkness. "Explain."
Morgan leaped into an explanation about how the doctor had partially
released Terastas' mask. Terastas had torn his throat open with his
sharp fangs and chewed his way out. He then ripped off the doctor's
face, took his uniform, and casually made his way to the exit.
"I see" said Diartigan, still completely hidden in the shadows.
"Then this... Doctor of yours is to blame?"
Morgan nodded. "Apparently. I can't imagine why he would have undone
"Very well. That I can accept. However... It troubles me to know
that Terastas was in your possession for two weeks. Why was he not given
to me in the first place?"
Morgan hesitated. "We... I wasn't aware you were familiar with
"I'm insulted!" Diartigan's voice boomed, a spark of flame
igniting in the darkness. "Terastas and I, we... Lets just say
we've had our differences in the past. It is nothing for you to know,
but if you didn't know I desired his blood, why were you holding him
to begin with?"
"Besides the fact that he's killed seventeen of our people?"
"Of course! If that were it you would've disposed of him on sight!
There's more to it than the murders and I'm tired of being uninformed.
Now tell me Morgan, why you were keeping such a dangerous creature alive."
Morgan leaped into the explanation about Kletain's research project
and how Terastas now had the only remnants of his files. Diartigan seemed
to accept it.
"It doesn't matter though" said Morgan. "It won't take
us long to find him- we'll turn him over to you immediately once we-"
"No, no. You were right in the first place" said Diartigan.
Morgan blinked. "But... I thought you wanted him-"
"I do, but this is more important. I know you might have been a
little doubtful if wether or not Kletain's lifework was truly worthwhile-
I imagine that's why you sent him to me in the first place, but I know
Terastas. He would have played mind games with you and your men were
he guarding something unimportant. No, Terastas has something of great
value. So great that even I, who grows tired of your ludicrous research,
am intrigued." He took a deep breath. "Allow Terastas to have
his space. He keeps nothing in the same place, at least not for very
long. Keep a close eye on him, identify any possible couriers and mark
them as well. And above all Morgan, keep him alive. There are plenty
of people in that city Terastas has made his new home in that are more
dangerous than him, and I'll not have anyone rob you of your files,
or myself of my vengeance." He paused. "You may go."
Morgan turned towards the door, but turned back when Diartigan said:
Diartigan let the silence sit in for a moment.
"Three, five, nine, one. Remember that Morgan. Failure is not an