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Captivity is bliss

 

The air is stale. Unmoving and heavy, trapped within the dingy corridors. It is thick, and vile with the wretched scents of death and disease.

Axton lies on the cold, hard, floor, hands bound behind his back ensuring little to no movement. He can’t stand and so he just lays there. Lays there on the ground like a broken toy discarded when it became of little use to a child. The cement is wet with leaking water from the ceiling and his own fluids. It stinks. But then again his sense of smell was rendered almost useless many days ago. He hardly notices the smell anymore.

The putrid stink of decay seeps through the bars to his right. The occupant died several days back. Beat his head in on the bars, over and over again like some animal gone mad. He had watched as the poor bastard bled out right there on the cell floor, watched as the life slipped away from his bruised and broken body. Now he lies there, bloated and rotting, after death fluids pooling around his form. It is not a sight for the fainthearted. Flies buzz around his swollen belly, already laying their larva in the overly soft flesh. Axton feels the urge to vomit, but only succeeds in dry heaving quietly. There is nothing to vomit up. There’s not even stomach acid left. He spits onto the floor weakly. A coughing fit ensues and it sends waves of pain through him. Sharp stabbing pains shoot through his torso with every jolt of his body.

He’s certain he’s got a couple of broken ribs. Add that in with the laundry list of other injuries. He groans pitifully. Maybe bashing your head in on the metal bars wasn’t such a bad way to go. Too bad he can’t even make it over to the bars to do the deed.

How fucking pitiful. He curses to himself.

He’s far too weak to even support his own weight, much less snuff himself out by way of head beating. He can only imagine what a horrid sight he is…smeared with blood, dirt, excrement, and sweat. Curled up like a dying animal, alone in the dark. He hardly pays mind to the stabbing hunger pains anymore. He’s just accepted the constant feeling of his stomach gnawing away at itself.

He wonders how much longer his body can go like this. It’s been weeks, but it feels like so much longer than that. His stubborn nature does not want to accept the looming thought hanging overhead…the hovering knowledge...that he is going to die here.

He wants to believe that somehow, someway, he’s going to make it out of this. He will be ok, slip out at the very last second just like always. He lived for last minute escapes. This time should be no different. He will think of something soon. Somehow he will regain strength and figure out how to escape.

His stomach twists just thinking about it.

He knows that there is no false hope. There is no escape. There is no seeing the sun. As hot and rugged as the Pandora landscape is, god what he wouldn’t do to see it, just one more damn time. This wasn’t the way he was supposed to go out. His death was always meant to be a heroic one. He was always meant to die in a spray of bullets and grenades. Not here. Alone, filthy and naked in a hell hole that nobody even knew existed.

But he had chosen this. He had held off the Hyperion army and had been captured so his fellow vault hunters could escape.

He squeezed his eyes shut.

The memory was so damn clear. The wind was howling, blowing dust and fire like a mad tornado. He felt the blunt force of the loader slamming him to the ground. He tasted sand and blood in his mouth. The robotic demon slammed its foot down on Axton’s dropped weapon, crushing the Jakobs revolver to pieces. He looked up through the blinding sand. He could see them running.

Maya was screaming words that he could not decipher, trying hard to run to him. To help. Zero grabbed her before she got far and drug her away kicking and screaming. He knew Axton’s intentions. Salvador had a grim look on his face that the commando had never before experienced. Emotion was strange on the gunzerker. But they knew....they knew that this was the only means of escape. They would not let Axton’s sacrifice go to waste. Their forms disappeared into the ash and dust.

They were alive because of him. He supposed...in a way, this death would be heroic. That action, there, at the Hyperion base was heroic. But there was nothing heroic here. There was nothing glorious about starvation. There was nothing glorious about lying in your own urine. There was nothing glorious about dying. Slowly, painfully. There was nothing glorious about crying...

He felt the shudders rack up through his body. He broke into quiet, pathetic sobs that were tearless and ugly. He was not even able to have such a small favor as tears. His body just didn’t have the fluids for them. And so he laid there, crying nonexistent tears. Accepting that he would die here. It would come for him any day now. Death had been lurking here since the day he was thrown into the cell. Keeping just barely out of sight in the shadows. Every once and a while one could catch a glimpse of it. A flash of a reflective eye. A quick shadow across the hallway. A small snicker that echoed and died into the silence once more. He had just chosen to ignore it.

But now, here it was standing in the corner of his cell. Black, tall and distorted, flexing its wings every so often. Not even offering the mercy to help speed the process along. It was simply an observer. Watching and waiting as Axton’s body caved in on itself.

Death is a fucking asshole.

At this point he just wanted to get it over with. He was tired of being hungry, tired of being in constant searing pain, just...tired of being...tired.

He was so damn tired.

Exhausted. Mentally and physically. He wanted sleep so badly. He had never wanted anything more. Sleep was such a thing that before this he had taken it for granted. Whining every so often about the conditions he had to sleep in on this god forsaken planet. Laying against rocks, hiding out in small shifty shacks. God what he wouldn’t do to be sleeping in one of those rusty little huts right now. He’d take that any day over this. At least there he would have a warm fire and his comrades company. Small conversation underneath a sky bathed in stars. He could almost hear the wails of wandering skags, the wind whispering over the hills. But here...there was mostly silence. The only sounds were that of dripping water, the occasional skittering of tiny rodent feet, and the moans of dying souls. Axton made no sound.

He refused to.

He would not moan and fuss as death took him. He’d take it like a fucking man. Nothing more nothing less. He closed his eyes, for longer than a standard blink.

He just couldn’t come to terms with it. Dying and such. He wished he could, but he just couldn’t bring himself to be humble with it. He wasn’t ready. It was too early. He had so much more to do. There was one thing about dying...it sure made you think about all the things you should have done in life. Could have done, should have done. All the wrong you did do, and all the right that turned into wrong or vice versa.

Then suddenly there was the loud clang of heavy doors being flung open at the end of the hallway. The force shook the bars of his cell and the sudden loud noise made him wince in pain. A strong bar of light illuminated down the hallway, casting two long shadows along with it.

He had company.

He wondered if they were finally coming to drag that damned stinking carcass next door away. It was about fucking time they did something about that. Heavy booted footsteps echo off the walls and invade the once quiet space. Axton can hear them murmuring words to each other, seeming to stop for a moment at every cell.

The fuck are they doing?

He cranes his neck as much as possible trying to see down the hallway but his view is interrupted by cells. It seems like an eternity before they approach his cell. They pass by the cell with the dead man in it first.

“Jesus Christ how long has this fucker been dead? Good god, get Browns down here to clean this shit up. Lazy fucking bastard.” The tallest man exclaims holding his nose against the overbearing stench. The shorter Hyperion goon is already peering into the cell directly across from the dead man’s.

“Well what about this guy? He’s....mostly there...” He says slowly.

The taller man looks in and smacks the shorter man in the back of the head.

“He’s missing his legs you dumb fuck! We can’t bring that one.” He barks his voice booming through Axton’s ears.

They go from cage to cage, peering in and accessing the occupant with standards unknown to Axton. With intentions that are just as cloudy. Like potential adopters searching through the pound. Looking for just the perfect kind of mutt. The shorter Hyperion scum then comes to stand in front of Axton’s own cell. His shadow casts across Axton’s seemingly lifeless body.

“Hey-Hey Ron!” He calls over his shoulder.

The one called “Ron” lumbers over to his side and peers over the shorter man.

“Isn’t this that Vault Hunter we brought in a couple of weeks ago?” He asks questionably.

Ron grunts.

“I think so. Not sure.” He muses.

“You reckon he’s still alive?” The short man adds chewing his fingernail.

“Dunno. Don’t fuckin look like it. Go give him a kick.” Ron says gruffly.

The shorter man grabs a hefty set of keys off his belt and fumbles to find the correct one. He stuffs it into the lock and opens up the cell door with a high pitch squeal of metal hinges that are about to give way. Axton just lies there, because in all seriousness he can do nothing else. He has not the strength to stand. There will be no second winds or burst or heroic energy here. There is but a broken man to look at here. The short man then proceeds into the cell and walks a circle around Axton’s crumpled form. He leans down and puts his ear next to Axton’s mouth.

There is breathing, just barely detectable, but it’s there.

“Hey, I think he’s still fucking alive!” He says grabbing Axton’s chin in his grubby fingers and forcing it from side to side trying to get a good look at the man.

He shoves his finger into his mouth and pulls his lip away, assessing the quality of his gums, checking for disease or rot. And then, there it is that last little spark of energy, that little glisten of adrenaline. Axton bites down on the man’s finger hard. Not enough to completely bite it off, but enough to draw some damn good blood. He rears back bellowing like a sick buffalo. The taller man rushes in.

“The fucker bit me!!! Oh god he bit me!! I’m gunna die!!! I’m gunna fucking get rabies and die!!!” The short man howls.

The taller man smacks him in the back of the head again.

“Calm the fuck down you idiot!” Ron barks.

He whimpers and wraps his bleeding finger in his shirt. The one called Ron then walks, more cautiously than the shorter man, over to Axton.

“Well, well aren’t you just a feisty little shit. Still got some spunk left in you eh? Oh he’s gunna love you.” Ron sneers as he leans down to Axton.

“This one will do. Let’s get him up and get him to the medical floor. He’s gunna need a lot of work before we take him to the big man.” Ron says standing.

The shorter man digs a length of heavy chain from his side pouch and very cautiously loops it around Axton’s ankles. He pulls it tight and he and the tall man take hold of it. Axton may be severely malnourished, but even in this state he’s no lightweight to deal with.

Axton feels the chain pull tight around his ankles and then the movement of his body as he is dragged across the floor. The cement is littered with fragments of bone, glass and rocks. They bite into his naked flesh, cutting him, scraping him. He can’t even manage a sound of displeasure as his body is dragged like butchered meat down the dungeon hall. His voice has simply dissipated to nothing. Other occupants of the cells are staring at him being dragged away. Like a sick cow being dragged from the slaughter yard. Some howl obscenities at him, most just cower back in the shadows eyes wide and wild, fearing that they might be next. He just accepts it. Maybe where ever they are taking him will be a quick death. Anything is better than wasting away in that cell.

They come to the heavy doors that separate the cells from the outside world. The two men shove them open and light bathes over the three of them. Axton winces at the light, his eyes not used to such brightness. It hurts. He cracks one eye open, but just barely. The flooring is tiled now. Massive fluorescent lights flicker overhead. A small trail of blood is left behind as they drag him. He honestly doesn’t even care.

They drag him to a large elevator and push the button. Axton can hear mechanics working and finally the small “ding” as the elevator doors open. They haul him inside, where two other Hyperion workers stand.

“Fuck that guy looks like shit. He come up from death row?” One asks the tall man.

“Yeah. Bosses orders. We’re taking him to the medical ward.” The man says shoving Axton slightly with his foot.

“He’s bleeding all over the damn place.” The other man comments disgusted.

“We’ll call someone up to clean it up.” The tall man says in his gruff dead pan voice.

The doors come open, and they are on the move again. There are more voices, more discussions. Axton feels himself fading in and out of consciousness, barely holding onto it. He’s lost a lot of blood. Suddenly someone takes hold of his arms and his legs. He feels his body being lifted off the ground. God it hurts.

Every injury throughout his body screams a the sudden movement. He grits his teeth and screws his eyes shut. They drop him on a cold table. The freezing metal is a shock to his tender body. Large restraints snap up from the table locking around his wrists, his ankles, his waist and his neck. He feels like he’s being strangled. The neck restraint is so damn tight. He chokes and coughs. His ribs are on fire, stretched and shifting with the new forced position. A blinding light is pulled down close to his face, his pupils shrinking to mere dots. Then suddenly he feels a vicious stab into his abdomen.

He can’t see it, but he can feel it. It’s a needle, sinking ruthlessly into his muscle. For the first time he finds his missing voice. The pain brings it forth from his body. The scream comes out horse and raspy, so much so that he doesn’t even recognize it. That disgusting sound could not possibly have come from him...could it? His hands pump, fisting invisible objects, opening and closing frantically. His eyes roll back into his skull. More panicked screaming come. Then retching. Saliva runs down his chin and dribbles down his neck.

“Fuck! Don’t let him choke on his tongue!” a seemingly distant voice yells.

Fingers enter his mouth and grab his lolling tongue. Like a light bulb on its last leg, finally he flickers out. Unable to last any longer he slips into an unconscious state. Tired and worn he is finally granted a sleep, however violent it was, it was still sleep. At that point any kind was welcome. And so however rough and unkind the sleep was.

He slept.

Body broken, bruised and withering, he slept.