Chapter 10:

Chapter 10: Strange Bed


Nyk winced at the sunlight hitting his face, forcing him awake. His head was killing him. How late did he get to sleep last night?

Wait… last night?

He sprung up in bed, looking around. Where the hell was he? This wasn’t his room at Lulu’s hidden base, and it clearly wasn’t the street. The room was small and shabby, barely large enough to fit the bed he was sitting in, and the barred windows had cracks in the glass. He could hear the shouting of people on the street outside, making his headache throb even worse.

What had happened last night? He fumbled for answers in the fog of his memories but all he remembered was the Collection Office… Axel… running out into the rain, and then…

He glanced down at the frayed shirt and trousers he wore, clothes belonging to someone else. A bed that belonged to someone else. A room that belonged to someone else.

Where was his gun? His gear? Even his Scavenging License was gone, and after he’d put all of his money on it, too!

The creak of a door made him snap to attention and his eyes shot up just in time to catch someone peaking in. It was a girl. That was all he had time to notice before she gasped and slammed the door shut.

“Hey! He’s awake!” The sound of footsteps on wood echoed away and Nyk jumped out of bed, running after her.

“Wait a minute!” He shouted as he chased her down the hall, nearly falling down staircase in the process. Whoever she was, she had to know what was going on and why he was here. He jumped to the bottom of the stairs and reached out for her-


A powerful blow struck him in the stomach and he stumbled back, colors bursting behind his eyes. His headache returned with a vengeance and he stuttered out a groan before collapsing.

When he came to, he felt a strong pressure on his chest, and it was only getting tighter. He glanced down and gasped. Rope! He was being tied to a chair!

“Hey! Get off me!” He shouted, struggling against his bonds, only to get a thump on the head in response.

“Calm down, I’m just finishing this… last… knot! …There we go!”

He choked on the final tug, trying to break free again. No luck. He was trapped.

His captor walked around table and sat down across from him. It was the girl from before, only now that he got a closer look at her, he could see that she wasn’t as much of a girl as he thought. It was hard to tell under all that dirt. She was from the slums, that much was obvious. Her hair was chopped short, and underneath the grime it looked like it could have been gold in color. Her clothes were no cleaner, and judging by what she was wearing, it was her shirt and pants he had on right now. Her eyes were a pale grey and as harsh as her scowl, and she carried herself with the same guarded caution anyone their age would have growing up in the slums.

Yeah, whoever she was, she definitely wasn’t the type to let him wander around freely. Nyk would have tied him up too, if he was in her place.

She didn’t say a word, she just kept giving him the same stony look. He took the opportunity to get a grasp of his surroundings. Like the room he’d woken up in, it was very shabby. A flickering light overhead made the poor conditions stand out clearly. The floorboards were rotted and there were holes in the wall. The only furniture to speak of was the table and a couple of chairs, and a dusty dresser. There was a counter a few feet away that could have passed for a kitchen, not that Nyk had much experience with those sorts of places.

What he focused on was his gun. It was leaning right there against the kitchen counter. Three steps away, and yet forever out of reach.

Finally the girl spoke.

“I’m not sorry I tied you up,” she bluntly stated. “I needed to keep you under control. I’m not sorry I kicked you either. You were chasing me.”

Nyk didn’t reply. He stared coldly into her eyes and waited for whatever was going to happen. If she didn’t think he could understand her, then maybe she and whoever else had captured him would feel free to talk about whatever it was they were planning in front of him. They clearly didn’t want him dead, or he never would have woken up, and they’re already taken his stuff. The only reason he was here was because they wanted something from him, just like Lulu. And until he figured out what that was, the best plan was to play dumb.

“…This strong silent guy act isn’t gonna do anything you know, I heard you shout when you chased me.”

…Fuck. Well, so much for that plan. Still, it was better to stay silent. If he asked what was going on, or begged to be let go, it would just show weakness. That got you killed in the slums, and he wasn’t planning to die here. Not after everything he’d went through. Right now the only thing to do was watch and wait.

“So have you got a name or something? I’m Dyna.”

He gave her nothing.

She sighed and reached into her pocket, taking out something small and silver. His Scavenging License!

“Well, it says here that you’re ‘Nyk’,” she said, flashing him the card. He felt his face heat up. There was so much writing on the card, he had no idea his name was there, too.

“Looks like that got a response out of you,” she smirked. “So it is yours, then. I’d have bet a hundred silvs that you’d stolen it off some Scavenger. No offense, but you don’t exactly look the type.”

That got another reaction out of him, a glare.

She tapped the card against the table and blew air from her lips with a sigh. “…Well. You’re just filled with fun times.”

The sound of the door opening behind him caught his attention and he strained, trying to look over his shoulder to see what was going on. Another woman walked into his line of sight. She was a good deal older than Dyna but the resemblance was uncanny. But her creased face was kind.

“Hello there,” she greeted him with a smile. “My name is Rowan. And it looks like you’ve already met my daughter.” She nodded to the ropes.

“He was out of control!” Dyna protested. “I needed to tie him down before he went for his gun and shot us!”

Nyk couldn’t deny there was a chance of that. But she’d been the one to attack him first.

“I was going to make breakfast for three, in case you woke up,” Rowan said, holding up a paper bag. “You’re welcome to eat with us, if you’d like.”

She walked over to the kitchen and her daughter followed after her. Nyk strained his ears to listen to their discussion.

“…Can’t really be…” He heard Dyna say.

“…Course, I wou-“ Was Rowan.

“…Be dangerous… could… if he…”

“…Child, and I don’t… what should… leave… street?”

As he listened for more, he found himself getting more and more confused. What did these two want with him? A child living in a house was rare enough, but with her mother, too? He’d never met someone whose parents hadn’t abandoned them to the streets. They were well enough off to afford a place this nice, and the sound of a sink meant they had running water. So what would people like that want with him? His card was sitting on the table.

All that money out in the open, and neither seemed to care.

Maybe they were just crazy. Crazy women who’d grabbed a kid off the street to torture him for fun. It was completely insane, but then, so was the idea that the head of a corporation would use a slum rat as a test subject for her prototype weapon.

He actually found it laughable. He’d been dead-set on getting away from Lulu and breaking his contract, returning to the slums where he’d never have to go to those ruined Towers again. Well, he’d lasted all of one night on the streets, and here he was, once again a prisoner.

It had to be a curse of some sort.

The scent of cooking food wafted through the room, and Nyk felt his stomach start to rumble. It had been too long since he’d eaten… At least a day, maybe more. Was this their plan? To torture him with the aroma of food and then use it as a bargaining chip for… what?

What could they possibly want from a guy like him?

A couple of minutes later and a bowl was set down in front of him. It contents were a murky brown liquid with some suspicious-looking chunks floating inside, but it smelled wonderful. He could feel himself starting to drool.

“It’s not much, but it should taste fine,” Rowan assured him. She pulled up a chair and sat down next to him, sticking a spoon into the muck and raising it to his lips.

He didn’t want to eat it. What if it was poisoned? Or had some strange drug? But while his caution was screaming to stop his mouth had a mind of its own, and it opened up to slurp down the stew.

It wasn’t very good. It couldn’t compare to the delicacies that Lulu had given him. But to a starving man it was the most delicious thing he could have tasted.

“I’m sorry my daughter tied you up,” Rowana apologized. “But we had to be careful. There are some violent people out there. She wanted to tie you to the bed, but I talked her out of it. I thought that if you woke up like that it might be a problem.”

“It was a problem anyway,” Dyna muttered. Rowan shushed her, then gave Nyk another spoonful of the brown muck.

Every bite tasted better than the last. Nyk could feel his wariness wearing away.

“What do you want from me?” He finally asked, turning to look at Rowan as best he could. She seemed to kind, not at all like Lulu, he didn’t understand why she’d brought him here.

Rowan sighed. “It’s not like that. We don’t want anything from you. I brought you here because I was worried about you.”

“Worried?” He was so confused the word just slipped out.

She nodded. “When we found you, you were curled up in the gutter, covered in vomit and blood. I thought you’d gotten attacked or something! We brought you back home to tree you as best we could, but…”

“Then we saw you weren’t a girl,” Dyna smirked, lowering her spoon. Nyk glared at her.

“Dyna, hush,” Rowan frowned. “Yes, I’m sorry, I did think you were a girl at first,” she admitted, her face turning a little red. “But thankfully, you weren’t actually injured. So while I laundered your clothes, we left you some of Dyna’s things and let you sleep it off in our spare room.”

Nyk stared at her. She actually expected him to believe a load of crap like that? That two strangers just happened to walk by him and see him lying in the mud, and out of the kindness of their hearts they took him home to tend to his wounds and feed him stew for breakfast?

“No way,” he shook his head. “What’s really going on here?”

Rowan looked hurt. She sighed, shaking her head. “My, it seems someone’s done a number on you, honey…”

Then her smile returned, and she went back to feeding him. “But that’s okay. Just work on finishing that stew for now, okay? No sense in letting a good meal go to waste!”

Nyk couldn’t trust her words, but his stomach didn’t care. It may have been crunchy, it may have had a muddy taste, but every bite was better than the last, warming his heart in a way that nothing else he’d eaten ever had.