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the ruin of the soul

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Haggar grabbed Champion's chin, nails digging into his skin. She didn't draw blood, not yet, not this time.

Champion bit back a whimper.

She tapped his lips softly with her free hand. "Shhh, my sweet. It'll all be over soon."

The new arm finished clicking into place and he screamed. Unlike the times before, he managed to hang on to consciousness despite the pain. She ran her finger against the seam, pushing against the artery, pulling on his wrist with her other hand. The restraints reared from the wall, she pushed and pulled him into them and he, finally, passed out.

She'd done great work on him, but his stubbornness remained ever so tedious. Did he think she would spare him pain if he remained awake? She would not. He would simply get in her way.

If it'd been up to her, she'd have left him conscious for this, but for once, it was not. Zarkon had spoken. He was, for once, even right (was this treason? Oh, but it tasted so fine, sweetness on her lips and blood down her throat).

She pressed fingertips to Champion's newly minted palm and let quintessence flow from there, waking the arm.

Champion screamed again. So tiresome.

She put a hand on his throat, silencing him. He had not woken up. The conditioning had taken hold -- good.

She stepped back. The arm had woken and was changing Champion again. This was delicate work and she did not like it. She would like the results, she knew, but the work itself? Tch. It was boring.

It was boring and it had to be done.

While Champion cooked, she moved on to another project. This one was fast and rough, which was what she wanted. A monster in a jar. A slithering snake, to take over a mind. Crude, perhaps, but useful, if one had not the time to shape a subject one's self.

She let the serpent flow through her fingers, more smoke than snake.

"Stop," Champion said. "Please, stop."

Remaking minds and bodies was her trade, her science and her art.

"This is not for you," Haggar said and drew back the snake from its coil around Champion's neck. A slump of relief spread between Champion's shoulders. She forced it to spread further, sinking Champion back into unconsciousness.

It was then that Zarkon arrived, for the final test.

He did not let her touch the Bayard. He never had and never would. To think there was this much power to tear apart and rebuild so close made her fingers itch and treason curl in the back of her throat.

But she waited, for now.

For now, Champion's arm bonded to the Bayard, if feebly.

Zarkon left. He had an empire to run and she had art to finish.

She pulled Champion from the restraints by his hair. She tugged on it. Ah. She was an artist, was she? She could sign her work.

Under her fingers, black hair turned to white.

She dug her thumbs under his jaw, reactivating his prisoner id. Prisoner 117-9875 was now out of his cell and alarms would start ringing... Now.

She grabbed his hair again to push it out of the way so she could give him what he needed for his escape -- guard rotations, maps, but nothing he might not have learned on his own. He woke up when her palm touched his forehead. He opened his mouth again to scream, but she did not allow him to make noise.

He would remember this, until he slept, and forgot. But until then, he would know his escape was by her will alone. It was a different kind of pain and he reacted to pain in interesting ways.

He would escape, nevertheless.

He would find a Lion, then the rest, then bond with the Black and bring it back to its rightful owner. She could have the rest, Lions, pilots and all. She could have Champion back, even -- and the things she'd do with him then!