5 months earlier
"You'll regret that."
Barely containing his rising anger, James aimed the cattle prod at Noll's head. It made contract with a sickening crack! and Noll collapsed sideways.
His vision blurred, the taste of copper coating his tongue as he struggled to sit up again. James was on him in an instant, wrenching his head backward by his hair.
"I'm going to make you wish you were never born, Davis." James hissed into his ear, electricity dancing off the tip of the cattle prod he held just under Noll's chin. The heat emanating off it was starting to burn, eliciting an angry red mark across his throat.
Noll held his breath.
"Don't kill him, James," a deeper, almost familiar accented voice sounded, "He's worthless to us dead."
James growled in frustration but released Noll, letting him fall unceremoniously to the floor, "He's worthless to us alive," he seethed, watching Noll nurse his throat as he gasped for air.
Belikov chuckled, hovering in the doorway with his arms in his pockets. He watched the boy struggle with some mixture of curiosity and pleasure. "He's worth millions," he said offhandedly, then smirked, "but I understand that you have a young lady with you, dear Olivier."
S vozvrasheniyem, Olivier.
Noll turned to the pair, blue eyes narrowed in hatred. He knew that voice sounded familiar. The man who Noll had originally known as Mr. Foster, father of Annalise Foster, took a carefully measured step toward him. Noll rose to his knees.
"And she is… very pretty." Mr. Foster, or Belikov as James called him, sank into a crouch, dark eyes shining, "Of course I have no interest in her… but I have a friend who… likes pretty girls."
Noll lunged for him, but James was fast. Electricity stole Noll's breath away and he collapsed again to the floor. "Don't…" he gasped, "don't you dare… touch her..."
All traces of amiable curiosity disappeared from Belikov's expression, leaving behind a cold, hollow glare. "A dog that does not obey must be punished."
"No ー Nng!" The scream ripped from his chest as white hot pain seared his spine. He tumbled hard to the floor, muscles twitching. Tears sprang to his eyes, "Please… don't hurt her… please…"
"Obey me," James demanded, jerking him up by the shirt. Noll wanted to move away but his body wouldn't respond. "Now. Get up."
He released him, and Noll scrambled to pull his heavy body into a sitting position.
James turned his back, motioning to the chair still poised in the center of the room. "Move the chair to the black 'x'."
It took him a second to find the small painted black 'x' a few feet to the left of James. He hesitated a moment. If he used his PK, there could be dire consequences. But if he didn'tー
"I said now, Davis!"
He jumped at James' deadly tone. He couldn't see his face, but he didn't have to. Noll swallowed his pride and his inner voice screaming at him not to, and focused on the chair. It only took a small amount of energy and the chair inched slowly toward the 'x'.
He almost smiled when it finally reached it.
"Again," James demanded. "Move it back."
"No," Noll glared. It hadn't taken much power to move the chair, but he could already feel the fatigue pressing in at the edge of his consciousness. He wouldn't pass out, not yet. But if he were to do it again… that was a different story.
Was it possible… James didn't know about his limitations?
"Get the girl."
"No!" Noll focused too suddenly on the chair as it flung across the room, smashing into the wall.
James chuckled, not at all startled as he turned to Noll with a cunning smirk. "Again, Davis."
Sweat dripped from his nose, his bangs sticking to his forehead even as he leaned forward on his knees as far as the chains would allow. He managed to suck in a breath before another jolt from the baton stole it from him again.
"Again." James demanded, twirling the baton around his wrist. He sounded bored but Noll knew he was enjoying this.
Noll didn't lift his head, he didn't move. He simply blinked the sweat from his eyes and tried to speak, but not for the first time, his voice failed him.
"Sorry?" James taunted him. "I couldn't quite hear you."
"I-I can't," he managed to murmur despite his dry throat. He concentrated again on the old wooden chair currently in the doorway of his prison. He'd already moved it countless times in the last hour, doing whatever they had told him. But now the world swayed and tilted before him, and he couldn't make the connection.
The chair wouldn't move.
James studied him for a moment before gesturing to the guard lurking in the doorway. Belikov had left them quite some time ago. "Bring me the girlー"
"No!" Noll lurched forward, ignoring the twist of pain in his aching knees.
James was swift. With a flick of his wrist, the cattle prod landed in the spot between Noll's shoulder blades. He cried out, sparks exploding behind his eyes as the electricity burned him.
"Please," Noll rasped, gasping. "I'm trying…" he closed his eyes, trying to focus, but his stomach churned.
James growled over him, lifting Noll's chin with the handle of the baton. "Then. Move. The. Chair."
Noll focused on the chair but it felt as heavy as a truck. A minute passed. James sighed.
"Wa-Water." Noll rushed out. He licked his dry, cracking lips, "I need water."
It was James' turn to shake his head. Nevertheless, he breathed an exaggerated sigh, tsking as he grabbed for the water bottle he'd kept hidden out of view. "If you're so thirsty," he said, setting it down on the chair as nodded to the guard who disappeared into the hallway, "get it yourself."
Noll almost shouted in joy and then fear when Mai appeared in the doorway of his torture room, blindfolded and handcuffed. He was fighting a losing battle, his abilities taking their toll on his mind. He could feel the surge of energy emanating from Mai's aura that almost seemed to call out to him, enticing him to take it. He instinctively reached out with his own aura but it wasn't enough. He needed to touch her.
Could he take that chance? What kind of things would they do to her if they knew the power Mai possessed? The thought made Noll shiver. The power Mai had… Noll's mind fought to grasp the idea that had begun to form in his head.
Mai. She jumped, a quick jerk backward into the wall as one of the guards pushed her into a kneeling position. Well that was a good sign; it was the first time he had gotten through to her. Had there been something blocking them? Noll forced his blurry gaze to the floor, seething as James zapped him with the baton again.
Mai, can you hear me?
Y-yes... her thoughts surfaced over his like a wave, there, yet slowly ebbing away.
He summoned another spurt of energy. Then unleashed it on the chair, but it only trembled. He grunted, do you think you can astral project?
Naru, what are youー
"Nngh!" He could barely hear Mai's yelp over the ringing in his ears. The world was starting to turn and sway. He wouldn't last much longer. It was a long shot; Mai had only ever projected on the living plane once, and not without help. But seeing where this situation was going… it was their only option.
James barked a laugh, stooping over to yank Noll's head back. "Performance anxiety, Davis?" he laughed again and Noll scowled, "Careful, your girlfriends watching. You don't want to disappoint her, do you?"
Mai's arms were already littered with fresh pink cuts and dark bruises. What had they been doing to her? Naru? Are you okay?
It took all his strength not to fall sideways with the force of James' next blow to his ribs. C-can you?
"Don't… me hurt... the chair." James' voice sounded garbled in his ears.
I-I don't know…
Please… Mai… Every hard labored breath sent a jab of pain through his chest. He'd reached his limit. He swayed, falling forward onto his hands. He tried to concentrate on the swirling pattern of the concrete floor, but his eyes blurred. Get to Lin… tell him… James…
James whipped around at the sound of Mai's shout. She was struggling against her binds, screeching. What happened? He turned to the Davis boy, cattle prod buzzing in his hand.
But the boy was sprawled out on the floor, unmoving. It was only now that he vaguely recalled the report he'd read on Oliver that hinted at the fact that he was fragile. How his body couldn't handle the large output of power without effectively keeling over.
James sighed, kneeling beside the limp orphan. He slapped his cheek, "Oliver, wake up."
Oliver's head rolled with the force of it but there was no other sign of life. Fear sparked in James as he turned him onto his back and leaned down to press an ear against his chest.
No pulse. "Shit."
Instinct kicked in. He straightened Oliver's head, dropped his jaw, pinched his nose, and blew.
James pulled back from his mouth and focused on pumping his chest. If this boy died, he could kiss his own life goodbye.
He could hear Mai screaming as he did it, calling for 'Naru'. "Will someone please shut her up?"
"I can help him!" she screeched in broken English. "Let me go!"
James ignored her, restarting the CPR regimen.
"Please! Please! Don't let him die..." she sobbed.
Oliver's lips were already turning a light shade of blue. What did he have to lose? James dug in his pocket, tossing the key to the one closet to Mai. "Let her go."
Belikov had come to stand in the doorway, attracted by the yelling. He remained silent, his cold gaze focusing on the boy's body lying face down on the floor, and then on Mai who was crying uncontrollably as one of his men pulled her to her feet.
As soon as her hands were free she staggered blindly to the boy's side, cupping his face. She yelled his name again, ripping off her blindfold. When he didn't respond, she didn't hesitate as she leaned down and kissed him.
James nearly threw himself at her, the frustration that had been building inside of him finally boiling over. He pushed her away with enough force to send her sprawling backwards. "What the hell do you think you're doing?" he seethed through gritted teeth, but he was interrupted by a soft groan.
The Davis boy's eyes were flickering beneath his eyelids. He was… alive?
"What…what did you do?" James asked again, mind reeling. He turned to Mai, forcing her to look him in the eye as he summoned his best soothing voice. "Tell me."
Mai went glassy eyed, wiping the tears with the back of her hand. "W-we have a bond," she mumbled as Oliver groaned again, eyes fluttering open.
He jerked up, eyes wide and panting, "Mai?" He swayed unsteadily, reaching out for her.
James sprang to his feet, jerking Mai back by the collar of her neck until she was out of reach. He wasn't sure what this 'bond' was and he sure didn't want to give Oliver the upper hand. He pushed her back into the arms of the guards, "Take her back upstairsー"
James turned toward the door where Belikov had raised a hand to his chin. "But, Belikovー"
"This is interesting," Belikov interrupted, eyeing the pair. "Resume your training, James. I want to see how far this bond will go."