Armel

       Richard Young / Fantasy
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Armel




Armel



I needed a human subject.
So I put up posters around town, asking for volunteers. Nobody came.
I offered to pay. Nobody wanted my money, not even the homeless man down the street.
I begged. I pleaded. But nobody listened.
What else was I supposed to do?
It was coincidence more than anything that led me to the man. There I was, pondering how I was going to find someone to work on and just coming out my front door. I must admit, I was less than paying attention, and more than a little frustrated with my search. So when I collided with the man as he came around the corner, and he fell to the street and cracked his head, it just felt natural to drag him inside and down to my lab.
I just wanted to do some experiments. But the way he lay there, strapped to the table, helpless and pleading with me - well, it was such a surge of power. And along with that feeling came something else, another kind of power. I'd never felt anything like it before. But I knew what it was.
And it had the potential to make things much more... interesting.
***
When I arrived, the body lay on its stomach in the damp dirt of the alley, surrounded by the stench of death and a pack of Lions. That's Law Enforcement Officials. LEOs. Lions. The name you use depends on how formal you want to be.
"Hey, Grit," one of the Lions greeted me. I hated nicknames. My name was Gerrit, not Grit. But I'd been on the force longer than most of my men had been alive, and I knew how a nickname tended to stick, whether you wanted it to or not. Best thing was to ignore it and hope it went away.
"Brinton," I answered. "What's the situation?"
"Male, about twenty years old, found naked in the street by -" He looked around and pointed at a woman talking to another Lion. "- Peria, I think her name was. She lives in the house to the left here. Says she was taking out the garbage when she found him."
"You figure she had anything to do with it?" I asked as we approached the body.
"Doubt it. Looks like the guy was dragged here. If she did it, I don't think she'd bring him all the way back to her place just so she could claim to have found him."
I nodded, inspecting the body. "His toes are missing."
"And eight of his fingers," Brinton said. "Doesn't seem to be what killed him though - the injuries have already healed over."
"Then what did?"
"We haven't turned him over yet, sir. We've been waiting for you."
"Let's do it, then." Brinton called another Lion over, and together they flipped the corpse from its stomach onto its back. Brinton noticeably blanched at the half-healed scars crisscrossing the dead man's chest and face. I crouched down by the body and put my finger to a large puckered mark on the center of his chest.
"Here's our killing wound, unless I miss my guess," I said.
Brinton gave me a strange look. "How can that be, sir? It appears to be fully healed."
"We'd better get the Quis on this. It looks like we're dealing with a Healer."
I only knew a couple of Quis in the city - the one who came to work with us wasn't one of them. His name was Dav, and he stood nearly a foot taller than me, though much of that height was due to his armour plating
He paid little attention to the body, instead walking around to inspect the drag marks.
"They disappear when they get to the stone road," I told him. Intent on the ground, he ignored me.
"You can learn a lot from the ground," he muttered after a moment. "At least, you can before it's all messed up by a dozen people who don't need to be here." From under his helm, he gave me a meaningful look.
"Hey, don't look at me, it was like that when I got here."
Only then did the man look at the body. "You turned him over?" he asked.
"Yes."
His grunt could have been taken for approval or criticism. I elected to assume it was approval.
"We believe it was the large wound in his chest that killed him," I said.
"Not intentionally," Dav replied.
"What?"
"I do not believe that the killer meant for this man to die. At least, not yet. Otherwise, why Heal the wound?"
"Torture, then? Why? Was he looking for information? And if he didn't mean for him to die-"
"Then he must not have found it," finished Dav.
"Damn it. We need to find out what he was looking for. I've sent a couple of Lions to figure out who the victim was, but that could take days."
"We don't have days."
"I know!" I scrubbed a hand through my hair - what little was left of it, anyway. "Do you have any ideas on who could have done this?"
Dav shrugged. "All I can tell you is it wasn't one of ours. Any Healer with the Asylum would have been with a Qui. And any Qui who allowed something like this would no longer be a Qui."
"Fair enough. So what do we do now?"
"You're the one in charge of the investigation, Grit." My eye twitched. Where had he gotten that name from? "I'm just here to take this guy to the Asylum."
"Whoa, wait - the Asylum? He tortured and killed a man! He deserves to be brought to justice, not taken to your little training center."
As Dav drew himself up, I quickly got the feeling that was the wrong thing to say. "Do not lecture me about justice," he said, voice cold. "Quis dedicate their lives to its pursuit. Prison could not hold this man without us, and he would likely bring the place down around the heads of your Lions. Training in the Asylum is a far harsher punishment than you can imagine."
His eyes held me until I nodded. "All right," I said grudgingly. "All right. He's yours. So what do we-"
A wail from the entrance to the alley cut me off. As I turned, a figure rushed past me toward the body on the ground. Dav's reflexes were better than mine, ans he caught the woman by the arm as though she was a child.
"This is a crime scene, ma'am," he said. "You can't just rush in here and-"
A Lion followed behind, out of breath. "My fault, sir," he said. "She claims to know the victim, and I brought her here to identify the body."
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