Entaillen 5

by Domenika Marzione

Lorne wakes up slowly at first, groggy and wondering if other people get to wake up alert and well-rested and then, like a slap, it hits him and he's alert in a heartbeat. He sits up, regretting it instantly as his head swims and he fights back the urge to puke, and closes his eyes again. He feels a little flu-like, itchy in some non-specific way, headache a dull roar that's well short of migraine but a little past ignorable. Probably from drugs because he already knows what their stun weapons do to him and that's not this.

Opening his eyes carefully again, he looks around. He's alone, in a well-light, clean, empty room. The wall behind his back and the floor under his bare feet are soft; the surface feels like some sort of sueded fabric and there's give under his feet. A rubber room, kind of, and that's so very much not a good omen. In his limited experience as a prisoner, soft walls and floors tend to indicate that you are going to be bounced off of them.

He's not wearing his own clothes, which is unsurprising and disturbing and getting to be a really bad habit. Instead of his uniform, he's wearing some light-colored, loose-fitting outfit that looks like hospital scrubs but isn't four sizes too large. It also isn't nearly as scratchy as the crap the Genii had given him to wear. He wishes he had socks.

Careful of his headache and suspicious of his equilibrium, he pushes up the wall slowly until he's standing. But he's not wobbling or tilting and so he steps away from the wall, walking slowly around his cell to get a measure of it. It's large, maybe fifteen by fifteen, and it's sterile. There are no seams in the fabric covering the walls, no tears, no stains, no specks of dirt. There is nothing in here except him. He looks up at the ceiling for cameras or sensors or anything else that might indicate surveillance, but whatever's there -- and there has to be something -- is too small or too well-hidden for him to see.

There is a window and a door and he saves those for last. The door is a door. No handle or knob on the inside, no gap between it and the frame, no keyhole to see through, no window. He gets down on his belly and tilts his head to try to see underneath, but there's nothing, not even the quiet whisper of a breeze from air coming through.

The window is a mirror and Lorne finds himself almost pleased at the predictability of it. A two-way mirror. Of course. The window frame is a little too high up for him to be able to do much damage. Even with a running start from the far wall, he'd be hard-pressed to get his center of gravity high enough to impact the window at any useful point. He crosses to it, pressing his face close and shielding his eyes from the light with his hands so that he can maybe see a little bit on the other side. But he can't. All he can see are his own pupils and, when he pulls back a little, that he could use a shower and a shave. He taps a fingertip against the glass to see if he can tell by sound whether it's glass or plexiglass or the sort of glassy material Atlantis is seemingly built out of and.... nothing. No sound at all. He raps his knuckles against it, feeling the impact on his hand and yet he hears nothing.

"What the--?" he asks out loud and stops because he can't hear his own words. "--fuck?"

He knows he's speaking, holds a hand pressed against his sternum to feel the vibrations and yet nothing. "Okay, this isn't good."

He takes a deep breath and then another and tries to quiet the wave of nauseous panic because he can't hear himself breathing, either. All he hears is a sort of low hum, like the distant thrum of a jet engine with his headphones on except quieter.

Maybe it's temporary, he thinks to himself because he can't bear to say it out loud. Maybe it's a side effect of the drugs. He's heard of blindness from head injuries and Purkowski had no feeling in his hands for a week after getting nailed with some Jaffa weapon that one time and maybe this is just like that. Or maybe it's something the doctors can fix once they're freed; Abelard's an ENT. Or maybe it's permanent and his eventual destination is back to Earth and out of the Air Force because the SGC isn't running short of majors and they don't need a deaf one. Or maybe it's all psychosomatic and he'd really better stop freaking himself out and start working on how he's going to compensate for the loss in the here-and-now.

He doesn't have a watch, doesn't know what time it is or if it's day or night or how much time has passed since his capture. He works on trying to convince himself that it doesn't matter right now, that it's like his deafness and something he'll just have to deal with until he doesn't. But it's not easy and he's never been good at just dropping things without picking something else up to use as distraction. But there's nothing else except the mountain of information that he doesn't know. Are Reletti and Ronon in identical cells? Are Sheppard and the others? Is everyone safe? The others before them were taken without a fight, but he and Reletti and Ronon were engaged in battle before they were taken. Will that be held against them? Will that be held against the others?

He drops down to the floor and does alternative reps of sit-ups and push-ups until his muscles ache, keeping his mind busy by keeping count. When he's done, he sits down with his back against the door because it's the only way he'll have any advance warning that someone is coming.

In between replays of the past few days in his head, starting with the discussions in Atlantis on why the Ancient Database had been so damned cryptic about M29-G4K (in his memories, he can still hear), he dozes. When he wakes up, there is a tray of food next to him and one wall of the cell has been shifted to reveal a sort of bathroom. He ignores the food for the moment, pretends he doesn't care about how it got there without him feeling the door opening, and goes over to the bathroom, which is about the size of the closet in his quarters in Atlantis. There's a sink, what he assumes is a toilet, and a single shelf with a towel and another set of the clothing he is currently wearing. On top of the clothes is his toiletries kit from his pack, a find that sends his heart soaring because there's a razor in there... except there isn't anymore. His toothbrush is there, as is his comb and soap and baby wipes and chapstick, but nothing useful as far as potential weapons. Because while he's sure that someone can make a shiv out of a travel toothbrush, that someone isn't him.

Still feeling crappy -- whatever they dosed him with, it's not passing out of his system with any speed -- he gives himself a crude sponge bath, taking advantage of the wire mesh floor to drain away water. It's surreal to the point of distraction to not hear the water splashing in the sink and he stands at an uncomfortable angle so that he can both reach the sink and see the door. Although if the tray is any indication, then it doesn't really matter if he can see them opening it.

Once he's dry (and, admittedly, feeling a helluva lot better now that he's clean for the first time in however many days since they came through the wormhole), he goes back to the tray. He doesn't think the food is poisoned -- there's really no point in capturing a prisoner alive and providing amenities and then killing them -- but it could be drugged. The question is what are the intended effects of any possible drug. It could be just to make him sleep, which with the lack of anything else interesting to do is probably what he's going to be doing a lot of anyway. It could be something more nefarious, a preparation for an interrogation or a subtler drug like the way Ford doped Sheppard's team with the Wraith enzyme. Maybe turn him into the kind of half-man, half-creature things that attacked them.

Or it could be nothing. If his mysterious captors are taking enough care to give him his soap and his toothbrush, simply feeding him isn't out of the question.

Irrespective of how long its been since his last meal -- counting pistachios and sour mulberries as a meal -- and how much water he drank out of the tap in the sink, he's hungry. And he knows that one of the first rules is to eat when there's food because you don't know how long until -- or if -- the next meal comes. He'll take the risk that it's drugged. Even if it's laced with the Pegasus equivalent of sodium pentathol, he thinks it's probably better not to be interrogated on an empty stomach. And, as for any transformative properties... he'd be a lousy werewolf, he's pretty sure, but he doesn't yet have a sense for the ambitions of his hosts.

If the food is drugged, it's subtle. His meal is shockingly like something he'd see in the Atlantis commissary in the weeks right before the Daedalus shows up, when they're more heavily reliant on locally-produced foodstuffs. A few different kind of vegetables, something that he thinks is going to be near-deer but tastes more like pork, and bread. He has no utensils, so he uses the bread where he can and his fingers. Dinner on mute is no less disturbing than everything else. He can't hear himself chew or swallow, can't hear his fingers on the tray. He eats facing the door, but he can't shake the weight of vulnerability. It, along with the itchiness and the headache, are here to stay.

After he eats, he washes his tray, more out of something to do than any sense of obligation or politeness. He could use it as a weapon, he supposes. He sits for a little while, then starts pacing around his cell, counting the footsteps it takes to reach each wall (nine or ten, depending on how close he takes each corner), then decides that he's going to walk a kilometer since he knows how many footfalls it takes to do that. He walks his kilometer, and then another in the other direction. He does more sit-ups and push-ups. He stretches. And, eventually, he gets bored and he's still tired and so he sits down with his back to the door and sleeps.

When he wakes, there is another tray. Next to the tray is his deck of cards.

The routine -- such as it is -- continues for however long. It's definitely days, but he has no way of knowing how many. Meals are only ever delivered when he's asleep -- he tries staying up for as long as he can, marking time with the cards, and all he ever gets is tired and hungry -- and with no pattern as to content that he can guess breakfast or dinner. He exercises constantly -- the marines will be so proud -- and plays cards (bridge by yourself is asinine, but there's only so much solitaire a man can play) and washes himself and his tray and his clothes with what must seem like compulsion if he were watching himself. He's not being drugged -- the food doesn't put him to sleep or make him loopy or uninhibited and if he's looking more like the werewolf-things that attacked him and Ronon and Reletti, it's because he can't shave.

This isn't how he wants to spend the rest of his days.

The deafness doesn't pass, nor does the itchiness that can't be scratched or the headache. He makes a point of talking out loud at least once a cycle (he doesn't want to call the times when he's awake 'days'), mostly to remember what talking feels like. He says the alphabet, he recites dialogue from Spaceballs, he sings his college fight song (badly, something completely independent of his deafness). He sometimes talks to his captors, telling them that they are peaceful explorers and mean no harm, that he wants to know how his companions are faring, that he wants to go home. He doesn't know if they understand him -- or if anyone else would understand him. Speaking without hearing is like typing without looking at the screen -- you shift your fingers a little and you might as well be typing in Welsh or Hungarian. He wonders if he sounds like a braying donkey yet.

His emotions become a form of entertainment. He measures his despair, his boredom, his irritability, trying to find the highs and lows (there is more of the latter than the former) and ride the differences like a roller coaster. He gets himself worked up about choices he made (should've kept moving, should've sent someone back to the stargate right away) and then he rationalizes himself back to even keel.

He might be going a little mad.

One cycle, after he's done everything there is to do (including that), he falls asleep. He doesn't bother sleeping against the door anymore, instead making himself comfortable by lying down and spreading out. When he wakes up, he's not in his cell. He's in a different room, one with windows that look outside. He's sitting in a chair with his hands tied firmly (if not uncomfortably) to the armrests and he's disoriented as hell because this is the first change of environment in however long and because he can hear.

Everything is too loud -- his breathing, his heartbeat, the give and groan of his unyielding bindings, and the dry chuckle of the man sitting across from him.

There are three men in the room, two big like Ortilla and just as menacing looking and armed and one older man, slender and serious and watching him from another chair. He gets up, patiently and slowly and Lorne is transfixed because it's all a bit of sensory overload.

"Why have you come here, Lantean?"
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26 December, 2006