Shadow Games: 8

Yoji’s pants legs were soaked through and through. The cold, clammy wetness slowly expanding, seeping up to his knees in an attempt to make the upper half of his legs as cold numb as the bottom. It stank, though after a block of sloshing through the low, rounded tunnel that made up the main sewer channel, he began to get a little deadened to the smell. He had Aya’s map in his pocket, though they hadn’t needed to pull it out, with Ken in the lead and Ken obviously having a damn good sense of direction and a damn good memory. Yoji figured he’d have ended up somewhere in south Kyoto proper if left to his own devices and without the benefit of Aya’s directions. Ken knew very well what he was about. Ken had gone from amenable and chatty into sharp, focused mission mode. He reminded Yoji of Aya, only Aya didn’t really have the amenable and chatty to fall back on when he wasn’t in the process of carrying out some plan . . . and well, Yoji didn’t want to fuck Ken.

Their activity that afternoon had done nothing to alleviate the desire. Had in fact, only served to make the urge that much more prominent. Like itching for a smoke after a particularly stressful day of having the pack tantalizingly close but not able to light up and take a long, slow drag of nicotine into his lungs. Having Aya’s dick in his mouth had been . . . well, damned nice in almost every conceivable way . . . but the exploration had stopped way too soon and there were acres and acres of pale flesh that had gone unexplored and the neglect was chewing at his patience.

He was glad Ken had shown up, really, he was, but thinking about what might have happened alone with Aya in the hotel room during the hours they’d had to wait until the club opened was driving him crazy.

Watching Aya all afternoon, being aware of him on a level that Yoji hadn’t been aware of anyone for a long time was excruciating, when Ken was in the room and he couldn’t venture out and touch him.

He put his hand on to the wall and recoiled the moment his fingers grazed wet, algae slimed stone. His foot slipped and he went down on one knee, sewer water lapping at his thigh.

“Fuck . . .”

“Careful.” Ken suggested, sure footed as a cat, Brown leather jacket hiding the double shoulder holster Yoji knew he sported. It almost hid the pair of razor tipped gloves fasted at his belt. Bugnuks. Yoji had known the term without asking. Had known without asking that with those things on his hands Ken would become appalling deadly at close range.

“Yeah. Yuck.” Yoji rose, shaking off a soaked sleeve.

“Keep your eye on the ball, Yoji.” Ken said, as if Yoji had been caught in daydreaming. It was annoying being called to task by a kid that looked at least three or four years younger than him.

“What ball? There is no ball. Its a fucking sewer and I’m soaked.”

“And you’re whining.” Ken added. “And you need to get your mind on the job.”

“My mind is on the job.”

“Fifty percent of it.” Ken surmised. “The rest of its wondering what Abyssinian’s doing up top.”


“Aya.” Ken clarified. “We don’t go around blurting out our names in the middle of a job.”

“Oh, code names and shit. Real ‘I Spy’.”

“Stuff it, Balinese . . . there’s the juncture.”

Yoji shivered, surprised enough that he stopped and stared at Ken’s retreating back. Yoji. Kudoh. Balinese. That was him. All of those were him, even though the last two were strange flavors on his tongue. He opened his mouth . . . shut it, trying to wrap his mind around the knowledge.

“That’s . . . mine? So, what’s yours?” Yoji sloshed through calf high water to catch up and Ken cast a wry look over his shoulder, maybe realizing he’d said more than he ought to if he wanted to stick to Aya’s plan of keeping the mystery sealed tight, then shrugging and answering anyway, with the ‘who gives a fuck’ expression on his face that Yoji had come to appreciate.


“Cats.” Yoji laughed. “We’re all cats.”

“Yeah. Go figure.”

“Sooo . . . he gonna be okay, you think?” Back to Aya. Ken was right, he couldn’t tug his thoughts away from Aya. “He was looking a little wrung out. You know, with the wound and all.”

Oh, Aya had looked hotter than hell, all dolled up in that clingy, sheer nylon number he’d worn to the club the night before and tight leather pants so soft and thin that they clung to the long, clean lines of his legs, but there had been exhaustion in his eyes, and stress to the way he held his mouth. A great deal of it was the wound, but Yoji figured there were equal portions worry over him. Aya didn’t say a lot, didn’t admit a fraction of what was going on under the surface, but it was there, mixing and boiling together into a stew that had to be eating him up from the inside out. It wasn’t good to keep that much on the inside or to shoulder that much responsibility when there were other capable shoulders to take some of the weight.

“He’ll be fine. He knows what he’s doing.”

“He needs to get over whatever it is that’s freaking him out about me. If I can deal with it, he can deal with it.”

“Yeah, well . . . that’s not the way his mind works.” Ken shined the beam of his flashlight down a long line of uninterrupted sewer. The whole of the network echoed with the sounds of running water and nothing more. There was no sound of traffic from above or patter of rain, only the water and the slap, slap echo of their own movements and occasionally the chattering conversation of rats, unseen in the darkness. It was an unnerving, ghostly place.

“How does his mind work?” Yoji asked, eager for the opinion of someone who might actually know.

Ken gave him another look, worried now and probably wondering how Yoji had drawn him far enough out of mission mode to be discussing Aya and Aya’s motives.

“He’s scared, Yoji and Aya doesn’t do scared well.”


“Because he’s afraid you’re gonna remember and go back to that place and you being there didn’t do anybody any good then and it won’t now.”

Yoji stopped walking, that pit of confusion yawning before him yet again. What place? What the hell had be been that the people that knew him were so afraid of him going back?

“Was I that bad?” He had to laugh when he said it, otherwise his voice would tremble.

“No, man.” Ken said reaching out and grasping his shoulder. “Just fucked up. Really, truly fucked up, but it wasn’t your fault and hell, you weren’t the only one. It’ll come back. I know it will and you can look at it with a little perspective behind you.”

“Well . . . well you’ve got more faith in me than he does.”

“Yeah, well, I wasn’t part of the prob – -” Ken trailed off, snapping his mouth shut, as if there was old anger not so far under the surface that he was only keeping back with a great effort of will.

“Wait, is this it?” There was a crumbling place in the wall of the tunnel. Stone and mortar littered the small ledge at the edge of the water channel. The pitch darkness beyond the hole was illuminated by a quick sweep of Ken’s flashlight. Yoji crowded next to him, peering in, seeing familiar metal stairs, accumulated junk metal and ominous padlocked door.

“This is it.” He whispered.

Ken pulled his light out of the room, surveying the tunnel around them, sweeping the curved ceiling and the surrounding walls. “Okay. Okay, We can set charges that won’t bring the roof down on us.”

He reached for the lapel of his jacket and activated the small communication device clipped there. “We’re in. Nothing so far.” He reported and whether Aya responded or not, Yoji wasn’t privy to, but Ken clicked the unit off immediately after, then reached into his pocket and turned off the ringer of his phone as well.

“No loud noises.” He said softly. “Nothing to alert anyone stationed outside the door up there that we’re here. Give me the bag and take this.” They switched, Ken getting the backpack Yoji carried and Yoji getting both flashlights. Ken moved the debris away from the area below the hole and sat the bag on the ledge, crouching with one knee on the wet stone as he rummaged through it. “Won’t need much of a charge. Here and here and we can practically kick the wall in.” He went about placing small wads of explosive in the cracks of crumbling mortar.

And then it was just a matter of waiting.

Aya came around with cold wetness on his face. It was a partial awareness at best, hazy and confused, thoughts short-circuited by the pain in his side and the aching soreness of his wounded shoulder. He tried instinctively to shift it, to alleviate the pressure of an awkward position, but his arms wouldn’t move. That brought him back a little bit more, the realization that his wrists were locked behind him, caught securely in the bite of overly tight cuffs. A hand shoved its way under his armpit, jerking him up. Another at the other side, latching onto his elbow, twisting his shoulder in the process, sending spirals of sharp pain outward from the point of the wound. There was a little sound of discomfort and it took him a moment to realize that it had come from him. It took him longer to focus on the gray and black walls of the bathroom and the black clad figures of the two men that had pulled him to his feet. They were the only things really holding him there. His knees trembled beneath him, watery and weak, damned and determined not to hold his weight.

“Walk.” One of them said, close to his ear, fingers digging mercilessly into the flesh under his armpit. He couldn’t get his thoughts together. Couldn’t quite place where he was or why or who these men were. He wanted their hands off him. He wanted to find some dark place to lay down until the dizziness passed and the aching pain in his shoulder and his side went away. He took a step when they moved forward and a sharp, deep pain lanced through his hip. That leg gave way and his weight hung momentarily on the grip upon his elbow, twisting shoulder joint and wound, tearing stitches.

“Damnit.” From one of them, and the one digging his fingers under Aya’s armpit shifted, shoving his other hand under Aya’s injured shoulder, taking his full weight from the second man, who moved close, pressing his body against Aya’s chest, fingers grasping Aya’s balls through his pants and twisting. Red pain flared outwards from his loins, bringing a rush of adrenaline with it. It cleared his head of the fog, bringing the details of the bathroom into sharp focus, as well as the face of the man trying to crush his genitals. The glasses were still there, but the harmlessness had dissipated, a convenient mask to hide the man’s true intentions.

The Reaper. Closer than Aya had expected to get to the man without a gun in hand or a sword ready to separate his head from his shoulders. The deceptive face leaned close, close enough that Aya felt the warmth of his breath on his skin.

“Walk.” Howard Meada . . . the Reaper . . . said, emphasizing the command with a wrench that felt like it actually tore something. Aya hissed, tasting blood in his mouth, hardly feeling the pain of a shredded cheek over the agony between his legs. It was sheer reflex to strike back and deliver pain of his own. He slammed his head forward, forehead smashing into Meada’s face. The man behind him jerked him backwards, tightening his arms into a parody of a full nelson hold that Aya’s cuffed arms didn’t naturally want to conform to. That pain was nothing to the knee that jammed between his legs. Through that haze of pain he saw the blood on Meada’s face from where the broken glasses had cut the bridge of his nose, he saw the calm, calculating anger as the man stepped back, gaining momentum as he swung his leg back and smashed his boot with all the force he could muster into the already bruised flesh between Aya’s legs.

Aya screamed. It echoed in his ears, hoarse and desperate, and still echoed even when his vision went red and sightless. Thoughts scattered, chased into a dark corner, consumed by a white-hot, shrill agony that threatened to steal consciousness. His balls wanted to shrink up into his body and his body wanted to curl around that center of pain and protect it against further violence. But it couldn’t, arched backwards against the chest of the big man behind him. All he could do was hang there and try to breath when every breath spurred a fresh wave of hurt. If they’d wanted him to walk, they’d gone about it the wrong way.

Apparently they decided his cooperation in the matter wasn’t a necessity. The big man behind him was strong enough to take his weight, curling a thick arm around his waist and hoisting him up close to his side, dragging him along like a strengthless doll while Meada opened the door and ushered them out into the black lights and noise of the club.

He saw the faces of the people in a pain filled blur. Very few of them seemed to take notice of two men dragging a third one, bloodied and dazed and handcuffed, through their midst. Those that did, smiled and stared with interest, asking with distorted, tinny voices if Meada and his crony needed a hand? Was it a private party?

Yes. Yes it is. My boy’s been bad. He needs to be punished. Meada smiled at them in passing, predator to predator. Why hadn’t Aya seen it? Had he been that blind, or was the Reaper just that good?

The guard at the door to the back rooms opened it without hesitation when they approached, and as soon as it was shut behind them the noise of the club was gone, muffled by no doubt soundproofed walls. Even though the rooms along the corridor were probably in use, there was no sound to be heard. No screams escaped those walls. No grunts, no groans. Nothing. And at the end of the corridor was the door leading down to that dank, cold room in the cellar, with its drainage grate on the floor to catch spilled blood and the horrifying metal table.

Aya began to struggle, overcome by a sudden, overwhelming panic not to be trapped in that room and strapped to that table. Too many visions of the images he’d been forced to watch from necessity crowded his mind. Of living bodies mutilated beyond comprehension, of flesh pealed back from the gaping cavity of a human being’s stomach, all the glistening organs still throbbing and pumping with life, even as the Reaper removed them, cauterizing with open flame as he went.

Maybe it was the drug or the pain or some new bout of concussion from the impact of head to sink in the bathroom, but he couldn’t shake the images, couldn’t get past the panic that overcame the hurt and lent his limbs strength. He threw his weight against the man holding him, using his feet as leverage against the wall of the corridor to hurl his captor backwards. But the man didn’t let go, and his fall took him against one of the last doors down the corridor, which gave under their combined weight and thrust them into a cool, darkened room. Aya thrashed, wild as a wounded animal and at the moment as single minded in his purpose. The thick arms tried to hold onto him, but the man grunted in pain as Aya’s bootheels made indents on his legs. But then Meada was there, hastily crouching down, pressing his knee hard against Aya’s gut, his belt in hand, which went around Aya’s neck, belt end through buckle and was yanked tight, cutting off his breath in one jerking movement. The blackness came on quickly, obliterating everything but the bass beat of his heart, loud and frantic in his ears.

The fight went out of him. He blacked out for a moment and came back, still on the floor, still wrapped in the arms of the other man, Meada still crouched in front of him, the belt still looped around his neck.

“Okay.” Meada said. “If you want to start here, we can start here. This room has promise and the audience likes a little variety in scenery. We’ll go downstairs later when you’ve a little less fight in you. Sound good?”

Meada handed the end of the belt to his compatriot, then rose, flipping on a light switch, flooding the room with harsh, bright fluorescence. He looked around, taking note of things that Aya couldn’t see from his angle, then nodded, satisfied. “Yes, this will do very well for a start. Get him in the chair while I get ready.”

Meada shut the door behind him, leaving Aya with the big man, who tightened the loop around his neck, cutting off blood and breath while he shifted position, getting up and reestablishing his grip around Aya’s waist, hauling him up and off his feet, ignoring desperate, feeble struggles as Aya suffocated.

He came back when his back and his cuffed hands hit the metal strip that sufficed as the back of a slanted chair. He’d only gotten flashes of the device when the man had been manhandling him towards it. Polished stainless steel, it was a cross between a gynecologist’s examination chair and something out of a Robot War’s show. There was no seat below the small of the back, just the jutting inverted ‘V’ shapes of the stirrups. There were metal cross bars at shoulder height and a structure that flared out above the head of the chair with hooks and pulleys. The whole thing was mounted on a curved metal base which had it own series of hoes and tubes and gear that Aya didn’t get a decent look at attached, which in turn was bolted to the floor over a clean metal grate.

The man had lifted him up and fitted his leg over the stirrup, clamping an attached metal cuff over his ankle before he had regained the breath to start fighting the inevitable. By then it was too late. With a shoulder pressed to his chest, the man forced his other leg up and over the hump on the stirrup and clamped his ankle down. Then similar clamps just over his knees fixed his legs securely in place. With a turn of a handle the stirrups swung outwards, spreading Aya’s knees wide and giving the man ample room to stand between them. He jerked the belt down, forcing Aya to bend forward and with an elbow on the back of his neck, the man uncuffed one wrist, then jerked both arms up and over his head, quickly and efficiently looping the chain of the cuffs over one of the bars overhead and refastening the empty cuff back over Aya’s wrist. The metal of the cuffs cut into his wrists and he grimaced, straining to push up with his legs and take some of the weight. He wouldn’t be able to do it long, not in the position he was in. The muscles of his thighs were already trembling. Or maybe that was fear. With the ability to fight taken away, the mindless panic began to fade, replaced by a cold knot of apprehension and the awful, miserable realization that he’d thrown away a quick, easy end to this dilemma when he’d struggled against going down into that basement. What had he been thinking? Nothing at all, obviously. If they’d taken him down there, he’d have had succor in short order. Ken and Yoji would have seen. They’d have set off the charges and come through the wall and the Reaper and his conspirators would have been dead soon thereafter.

Fool. Fool. Fool. He couldn’t reach the bracelet with its comm unit. His hands were going numb from the tightness of the cuffs. If he didn’t call them, they’d think there was simply nothing to report and they wouldn’t know otherwise until the club closed hours and hours from now and he didn’t come out. He could be dead by then and the Reaper long gone. Only, maybe not. The Reaper liked to take his time. Draw the show out. Days sometimes. He had a little time. Until he was taken to that room in the cellar, the things that were done might be survivable.

Yoji took a smoke, fifty feet down the hall from Ken at the hole, far enough that the smoke wouldn’t seep in and alert anyone venturing down into the basement that something was up that shouldn’t be. He was cold and wet and bored. Ken, true to his word, wasn’t doing much talking, practicing the silence needed to set up proper surveillance. Sitting there for hours, cramped, wet and cold was simply part of the job, a very mundane prelude to something that might or might not happen.

They were going to kill men, Aya and Ken. Those men in the video, who had killed so many innocents. Men who deserved it, he was certain, but it still sat uneasily with him, that knowledge that they were lying in wait to spring out and casually extinguish lives. Aya had told him that he and Ken would take care of it, that Yoji didn’t have to do anything that wasn’t absolutely necessary to protect one of their own lives. That was Aya trying to keep the blood off his hands, a practice in futility really, since Yoji figured he’d had plenty staining him at one time or another if he’d been in the same business they were back before the big void. A frightening concept, but not an unimaginable one. He could still recall with vivid intensity that night on his way to Kyoto when he’d snapped the neck of the thug in the alley. Just like that he’d killed a man, with pain and fear driving him into instinctual action.

He crouched on the ledge, his back to the slimy, curved wall, and brought the cigarette shakily to his lips. God. It wasn’t something he wanted to be. A taker of lives. He didn’t want that responsibility and yet, here he was, waiting to carry out the execution of a group of monsters who not only took lives but stole dignity and soul before the crime. So maybe there was justification in returning the favor. So maybe it was something that badly needed doing, it was just a matter of having the strength to carry it out and survive the guilt that would come in the aftermath.

When Meada came back, he was no longer the man Aya had met in the club. He’d changed into the work clothes that were his familiar attire during video sessions. Black leather, gloveless, sleeveless, a black mask that covered his face save for mouth, eyes and slits at the nose. He was the Reaper now, without doubt. The man that came in behind him carrying a video camera was similarly attired, but his bare arms were covered in elaborate tattoos. The Reaper tossed a hood to the big man that had stayed with Aya and he put it on, abolishing his identity for the camera. They closed the door and locked it, not talking among themselves, just very efficiently hooking up the camera with a long connection wire to a laptop on a wall shelf.

The urge to cry out and tell the man that they were on to him, that there were assassins waiting in the shadows to take him and his down was so strong that Aya had to bit his tongue to keep it back. Though it might prevent the Reaper from engaging in his usual play, it would more than likely also result in a quick death for Aya and the man and his cronies hightailing out of there with Ken and Yoji none the wiser.

The light on the camera came on and the third man braced it on his shoulder, moving in on Aya, sweeping the lens of the camera slowly up his body, playing over the cuffs on his legs, his vulnerable crotch, up his stomach and chest to his face, where it hovered, as the Reaper approached from the side, grasping Aya’s hair and pulling his head back for a unhindered shot of his features.

God, this was going out live. There were thousands of people out there – – maybe tens of thousands seeing this. Seeing him. And then it occurred to him that Mihirogi was very likely monitoring the Reaper’s broadcasts – – or someone from Kryptonbrand was – – and hope flared with embarrassment. They knew Ken had joined him. They’d contact him . . . and he and Yoji would come and stop this. They had to come and stop this.

“Pretty.” The Reaper said, grasping Aya’s jaw and tilting his face this way and that. “Gorgeous bone structure. Flawless skin. Lovely eyes. Get a close up of the color.” The camera man moved closer and Aya shut his eyes. The Reaper laughed softly and pressed his forefinger and thumb into Aya’s eye socket, forcing the lid up, stretching it wide as the light from the camera blared into his face, making his iris contract to pinpoint size. After a moment, he released the lid and Aya blinked rapidly, involuntary tears clotting his lashes.

The Reaper’s fingers moved down to his mouth, almost a caress and Aya snapped at him, growling, a useless, petty attempt that the Reaper deftly avoided, before pressing his palm under Aya’s jaw to keep his teeth together.

“You’ve got spirit. I like that. I’ll take that from you a little bit at a time.” He ran his thumb across Aya’s lips, mashing the soft flesh against his clenched teeth, pulling at his bottom lip to reveal teeth and gums . . . “There’ll be nothing you can hide from me.” . . .shifting his fingers to the hinge of Aya’s jaw and pressing hard enough to bruise. . . “no secret you can keep.” . . . forcing Aya’s jaw open and inserting two fingers. “No place you can hide. . .” Soft, manicured digits prodded his tongue, the sides of his cheeks, rubbing over the rough swollen flesh of the place he’d bitten. “Nothing inside or out that I’m not going to have access to. He pulled them out with a little bit of red on the tips. The reaper smiled at that, then wiped it off on Aya’s shirt.

The Reaper pressed his face close, fingers still biting into Aya’s jaw, and said. “You’re mine and you’re theirs.” The man’s eyes flickered to the dead eye of the camera. “So let’s let them see what they’re paying for, shall we?”

The big man, the one not holding the camera, handed him a gleaming silver scalpel. The reaper held it gracefully, like a surgeon might. They’d supposed in their profiling of him that he probably had been. He’d had a great deal of extensive medical training at any rate to be able to accomplish what he did with his victims without outright killing them. He slid the blade under the sheer nylon of Aya’s clubbing shirt, slicing upwards in a clean, neat line that parted fabric like warm butter. The tip of the blade pressed at the hollow of his throat, cold and deadly and Aya slowed his breathing, shutting his eyes to avoid seeing the blinking light of the camera. He felt the blade move and the Reaper made short work of his sleeves, leaving his upper body bare.

Calm down. Prepare himself for the worst because no matter how much he might like it, the Reaper’s broadcasts were unpredictable and none of Aya’s allies might have realized this one had begun. And if they didn’t then all he had to hope for was Ken and Yoji missing him at closing time.

Closing time. It had been maybe eleven when he’d started feeling woozy, so it couldn’t be much past eleven thirty now. The club wouldn’t clear out till the early hours of the morning. Three or four o’clock at the earliest. That was a long time to wait when he was all too familiar with the sorts of games the Reaper liked play with his victims.

“What’s this?” the reaper had found the bandage on his shoulder and pulled it off curiously, pushing Aya forward a little to see the bullet wound.

“Guy they shot at Zero G was a redhead.” The big man said.

“Ah. You have been busy, haven’t you? Harassing the type of men who own these clubs will only get you killed – – ah, but you know that now, don’t you? They’ll want to know who sent you, but we won’t talk about that now.” He unbuckled Aya’s belt, worked the zipper down and brought the scalpel down at the bottom of it, slicing through leather with almost as much ease as he had nylon. “We’ll speak of those things when I know you won’t lie to me. When you don’t have anything left to lose, humm, pretty? Such white skin. Lets leave it framed in black leather.”

He was careful, slicing away the seat and crotch of Aya’s pants but leaving the legs like some homemade version of leather chaps that clung to Aya’s legs and ended about six inches from the juncture of his legs. Everything else was bare. His bruised genitals wanted to shrink inward at the touch of cold air and the gazes of three ill-willed strangers. No – – more than three. A great deal more. The tattooed cameraman swept the lens slowly over him and Aya clenched his teeth, feeling his face go hot in mortification. The man crouched between his legs, getting a close up and the Reaper reached down his belly with the hand holding the scalpel and lifted his scrotum out of the way so the camera could get an unobstructed shot of what lay below. Aya wanted to close his thighs so bad the metal of the cuffs above his knees and at his ankles bit into this flesh even through the leather of his mutilated pants.

“Clean, pink little pussy. Tight.” The camera man observed.

The big man laughed derisively, somewhere off to the side.

The Reaper rose, trailing the blade over Aya’s stomach and chest without breaking skin. His touch was that light. “Let’s take a look at that wound.” The camera man came around. Aya tried to twist his head to keep them both in his line of sight but his arms stretched over his head prevented full range. He felt the Reaper’s hand on his side, fingers pressing into the vulnerable flesh under his arm, thumb pulling at the edge of the inflamed flesh around the bullethole. He felt a cold sting and at first didn’t connect it to what it was. The scalpel cutting through the neat stitches, then deeper into flesh that had already starting mending together, reopening the wound. He drew a gasping breath. Another. Then clamped his teeth shut around the pain, seeing dots of dancing color before his eyes, head pounding with the rush of blood as the Reaper pushed his finger into his flesh, along the track the bullet had taken.

He would not scream. He would not. He’d black out first. He felt blood on his back. The warmest thing he’d felt since coming into this room. It trailed down, finding the line of his spine, dripping down on the metal foot of the chair with soft, plopping sounds. Funny that he could hear that through the pain, past his harsh breath, past the blood pounding in his head. Or maybe he just imagined it.

“You’re getting blood all over the chair. I told you this wasn’t the place for that. Lets pack that wound. There’s nothing like salt, is there. It has so many uses. I’ll show you another one in a moment.”

Aya might have made a sound when the Reaper began packing the newly opened wound with salt. He wasn’t sure. It burned horribly, but after a while he almost became numb to it, exhausted by the effort not to succumb. He shut his eyes, letting his head droop a little, feeling sick but having nothing left in his stomach to throw up.

“Do you know what torture the Chinese are really fond of? They use it particularly frequently on Falun Gong practitioners. Supposedly its for force-feeding prisoners who’ve gone on hunger strikes, but really, its mostly used to persecute them. Do you know how vulnerable the stomach lining is to salt. High concentrates of it burn quite painfully. I’m told its excruciating. I’ll expect your opinion.”

The big man lifted what looked like a large rubber hot water bottle and hung it from a hook on one of the extensions above Aya’s head. There was a tube leading down to it with a catheter valve on the end of it. The panic he’d tried to chase away begun to creep up again. The reaper loomed over him, cutting off his vision of it, a very long rubber tube perhaps the diameter of his little finger in his hand. The big man came up on his other side, large hands clamping around his skull, holding his head immobile. The Reaper pushed his forehead back, then fed the slick end of the tube into one nostril.

“I like to feed through the nose. There are so many other things I can do with your mouth while the saltwater solution is filling your stomach.”

The panic rushed up en masse, as the thick tube forced its way past the cartilage inside his nasal passage and eeled its way down his throat, a burning pressure that made him gag. It kept going, winding its way down into his body. He struggled, jerking his body in desperate panic.

“No. . . No. . . The denial hissed through his teeth.

“Calm down. You’ll only hurt yourself. Its no worse than a stomach pump in the emergency room.” The reaper suggested. Then to the big man. “Put the collar on him.” Which the man did, sliding up a set of leather straps attached the back of the chair and buckling them around Aya’s neck, fixing his head firmly back against the chair, which left the big man’s hands free to touch his body. A thumb on his nipple, a hand skimming the taut flesh over his ribs, down to the flaccid, cringing flesh of his genitals. He shuddered, trying to regulate breathing that wanted to fly out of control. Trying to find a place in his mind that would let him endure this without shattering. The reaper attached the other end of the tube to the catheter hanging from the bulging water bottle and opened the flow.

“We have to be careful of the amount – – watch the volume. If we forget to close the valve and too much flows into you, your stomach will rupture and after that – – well we’ll only have a little while to play with you before you bleed out. A few hours if its only a small rupture. But we’ll try to avoid that. It would spoil the fun and our audience has paid a good amount for a lengthy show. Of course, accidents happen.”

The breath hissed through Aya’s teeth. There was blood running down the back of his throat. It distracted him momentarily from the vague rumbling in his stomach. An odd sensation of churning that was only slightly worrisome. Fingers gripped his jaws and the Reaper was forcing something hard and metal between his teeth. A bit with a curved metal tongue attached which pressed down over his own tongue, almost touching the back of his throat. He gagged trying to push the thing out with his tongue but the Reaper tightened a strap around his head and pulled the bit tight enough that it stretched the sides of his mouth painfully. He clamped down on it like a colt with the first taste of iron between his teeth, sucking in air around it, grateful at least that it hadn’t blocked his ability to breath through his mouth.

A burning cramp twinged in his belly. It didn’t fade. Growing stronger. A hot, envisage ache that made him want to double over and clutch at his middle.

“You’re feeling it now, aren’t you?” the Reaper stood between his legs, the leather of his pants touching Aya’s bare thighs. The man put his hands on Aya’s stomach, bearing down and the pressure against a stomach half full of salt water made the discomfort flare into outright pain. There were bees in his stomach that had suddenly gone into a frenzy. Or sandpaper grating against the walls. He made a noise of distress, arching his back as much as he could to try and change position and alleviate the growing tension inside him. The Reaper laughed, moving his hands up Aya’s chest to pluck at his nipples. Forefingers and thumbs rolled and pulled and mashed and yet it was only a minor distraction from the salt in his belly. The Reaper leaned over him, the metal of his belt buckle pressing hard against Aya’s bruised genitals. That did hurt. That made him gasp through the bit.

“What a nice pair of tits you have.” The Reaper lowered his mouth over one of them, taking the nub between his teeth and chewing hard enough to draw blood. He suckled it fiercely after that, until that burning pain equaled the one at Aya’s groin. It didn’t quite compete with the burning pressure in his belly. Pressure that was growing stronger and stronger. He remembered what the man had said about ruptured stomachs. About bleeding out. He couldn’t even beg for them to remember to stop it with the bit and the tongue depressor, all he could do was make inarticulate sounds. And once he’d started that, he couldn’t stop. Little sobbing moans that came and went with his breath. Almost it sounded like the whimpering of a dog. He hated it. He couldn’t make himself stop, not for long at any rate.

The reaper tugged on the nipple he’d been suckling. Aya couldn’t lower his head far enough to see it, but it felt swollen and inflamed. The Reaper pinched the puffy flesh and stretched it out from Aya’s chest and the big man crowded in the wrap a little piece of rubber cord tight around the base, tying it off so that the nipple protruded, fat and swollen with blood. The Reaper smiled when he fastened the clamp to it. Metal teeth bit into soft flesh, breaking skin, causing blood to trickle down his chest. He couldn’t catch his breath. The colored lights were starting to crowd out his vision. They repeated the process with the other one, twin spots of tortured flesh that pulsed and throbbed in time with his bloodflow. When the big man handed the Reaper what Aya recognized as some sort of jury-rigged cattle prod he started to feel faint, even before the four pronged tip of the thing touched the metal clamp around one nipple.

He did scream then. The electricity crawled through his flesh, into muscle and bone and organs. The tip of the prod wondered across his chest and touched his other nipple and Aya arched, jerking so hard against the leather collar that he bruised his windpipe, pulling violently enough at the cuffs that skin tore and blood began to seep down his wrists. His belly was a curled, knotted fist of pain. Crippling, burning cramps ate him up from the inside. The reaper touched the tip of the prod to his navel and kept it there, and it felt like the saltwater was boiling from within, like his internal organs were being eaten by acid. He couldn’t stop the thrashing of his body. He reached his limit and went over the edge into darkness and for a few sumptuous moments the pain went away.


He came to with something bitter and acrid under his nose, flinching from the smell and turning his head as much as he could, collared as he was. The cramps clutched at his belly, fierce and relentless. Burning. He chewed at the bit helplessly, teeth clamping against metal.

The Reaper put a hand on the cold skin of his belly, causing muscles to spasm and quiver. He pressed down with his fingers and Aya could feel the water move inside him, could feel the stretch of his stomach as pressure was applied. He moaned, fingers grasping at air above his head. There was wetness on his cheeks. He didn’t remember crying.

“That’s enough.” The Reaper said and reached to close off the catheter. “We’ll take this out for the time being.” He began pulling the tube from Aya’s nose. The feel of it sliding back up his throat was almost soothing, when it came with the knowledge that it would be gone.

The Reaper’s soft fingers touched the tortured tip of a nipple, squeezed between the jaws of the clamp, gentle almost, but it still hurt. “You have tender skin. The electricity burned you and it wasn’t even at full power. We don’t want your pretty flesh marred just yet, so we’ll take precautions.”

He had a tube of jelly in his hand. Squirted a glob on his fingers dabbed it onto Aya’s nipples, under his armpits, down the line of his chest to his belly, then between his legs. “This is the same jelly they use to protect a woman’s skin when they perform a sonogram. It won’t decrease the current, but it will keep your skin from burning.”

The prod touched the soft concave of flesh under his arm and he jerked, twisting and gasping as the current eeled through the left side of his body. Nipples and he barely kept the incoherent scream from his throat. When it went lower, touching the soft, cringing organ between his legs his vision went white and his thoughts scattered and chaotic with an intensity of pain that made him forget the fiery cramps pounding his gut. He must have screamed, though he didn’t quite recall it.

His throat was raw and tasted of blood when he came back to himself enough to take stock. He could still feel it between his legs, the phantom residue of invasive electricity on his balls, the tip of his penis, the sensitive skin beneath them, the quivering ring of flesh of his anus.

The Reaper leaned against his side, the prod still in hand, but not leaking current as he dragged the pronged tip across Aya’s lower stomach, then down to shift his genitals.

“Do you want to feel this inside you? The prongs will tear you up on the inside, and open flesh is so much more sensitive to the current.” the Reaper purred.

Aya stared down, wide eyed and breathless, trembling so badly that his teeth rattled on the bit.

Why hadn’t they come? He needed them to come and get him. He couldn’t deal with much more of this. He needed them to know that something was wrong. He needed his weakness not to be the entertainment of thousands of avid voyeurs across the world, sitting before their computer screens whacking off to his screams and his helplessness. Yoji. Yoji. Where are you?

There was a jolt of pain at his balls that jerked his body in the restraints. The Reaper caught his jaw forcing his attention. “Don’t phase out on me, boy. I need your attention. I’ll ask you again and I’ll give you a choice. Do you want this very long, very sharp cattle prod up your ass or would you rather have my associate’s cock. Your choice.” He turned Aya’s head towards the big man, who was rubbing the bulging leather of his cod-piece. He couldn’t wrap his pain wracked mind around the concept of choice. The hurt kept drawing him back down into a chaos of its making, drowning out rational thought.

The tip of the prod touched the metal bit and Aya’s mouth exploded with pain, his head went blazingly white with it. The Reaper gave him few moments to recover before grasping his jaw and turning his face towards the big man again. “If you don’t answer me, you’ll get the prod right up into your bowels so you can really feel the shock and a salt enema afterwards. But if you chose one, the other won’t happen. My word. So what will it be. This . . .?” He held the prod up before Aya’s watering eyes. “Or my associate?”

The man was the lesser of two evils. Unprepared, a penis might hurt, but it was a tolerable pain. His eyes flicked towards the man and the Reaper grunted in satisfaction, withdrawing the cattle prod and leaning back against the shoulder high bar as the big man unhooked the leather cod piece hiding his genitals and released the flesh straining there. Aya’s eyes widened in dismay at what was revealed. Not only was it likely the largest penis he’d seen in flesh or pictures, but it was liberally pierced with thick barbells down the length of the underside. Metal balls close to the size of marbles adorned each end of half inch thick bars. There were six rows of them and at the tip of the head was a thick ring, also about a half inch diameter in thickness.

The man’s big hand stroked the length of it, his fingers barely able to circle the girth of it at the base. His balls swung huge and heavy beneath it, a shade darker than the blushing skin of his penis.

“My associate used to have a lucrative career in the adult film industry. There weren’t many bottoms that could accommodate him easily, as you can probably guess. So many of his sexual partners reneged when they saw the size of his tool, that he finds it much more accommodating to wield it upon someone who can’t run away.”

The man moved into the space between Aya’s thighs, still stroking his penis, waiting until the tattooed cameraman had moved in close. The Reaper himself reached down and lifted Aya’s balls, giving the camera an unobstructed view of his clenched hole and the huge cock hovering outside it.

The metal ring through the head touched him first. It was surprisingly warm. Aya couldn’t see . . . he didn’t want to see. Just clenched his numb hands and shut his eyes, trembling beyond his control. It was the cold that made him do it and the burning in his belly. Aya could deal with the rape. Rape was the most mundane thing they could do to him, by far less damaging and less painful than the other things. A physiological torment as well as a physical one. The Reaper never raped his victims himself. That wasn’t his private turn on, the pain was. The humiliation. The eventual destruction of pride and will and self. That was how he achieved his culmination.

There was already jelly around his anus and the big man rubbed the head of his penis in it, before pressing the ring back to Aya’s anus, mouthing repulsive sex talk, the sort of things he’d probably read off scripts during his porn career.

“Dirty little whore. I knew you wanted cock. Open that tight pussy for me. . .” And so on and so on.

The metal went in first, easy and smooth, a deceptive prelude to what would follow. The head of the cock was large and blunt and Aya’s body did not wish to stretch open to accommodate it. It didn’t stop the man from leaning forward, putting his considerable weight behind it and forcing the issue. There was no gentleness to the man and no patience for unwilling flesh. With a growl he thrust forward, and protesting muscle screamed and tore and gave way against the overwhelming assault. Aya clenched his teeth on the bit, jaws popping from the effort to keep from squealing around it. He thought he caught some small bit of disappointment in the Reapers eyes under the holes in his leather mask. It was the first bit of satisfaction Aya had felt since getting his ass kicked in the bathroom. It almost made the burning intrusion tolerable. Well, tolerable until the big man shoved in to the root, each and every marble sized ball on the ends of his piercing forcing their way through muscle that was still trying to put up a fight. It slammed up into his body like a fist and it felt like it was in his guts, crowding against his achingly full stomach. Out again and he hardly had the time to appreciate the departure before the man rocketed back up, forcing his body up as far as the clamps around his legs and the collar on his neck would allow. The weight went off his wrists and for a desperate moment he could almost reach the bracelet, but then he fell back down on the cuffs as the man pulled out on his backward stroke. God . . almost. So close. He sobbed in frustration, a few trails of hateful, warm wetness cutting through the cold sweat on his face.

On the next thrust upward the cramps reached a crescendo, knotting up his belly in pain that had nowhere to go but upwards. He gagged desperately as the bile crowded his throat, coming up with such force that it restricted breathing. He couldn’t open his mouth enough past the bit to let it out freely, so it dribbled out past his teeth and up through his nose. He was choking and suffocating and in the desperate panic of that he hardly felt what happening to the rest of his body.

The reaper must have removed the bit and released the collar, because suddenly there was no obstruction and he was vomiting up liquid discolored with whatever had still been lurking in his stomach left over from the last time he’d spewed his guts out. He hung there limply afterwards, gasping, stomach still burning despite the exodus of its contents, staring dazedly down the length of his body, finding the emotional prudishness somewhere inside him to be disgusted at the mess he’d made on his chest and belly.

A fist slammed into his gut, robbing him of breath yet again. “Filthy slut . . . I wasn’t finished.” The big man spit on him, a clingy glob that hit his cheek and dribbled down towards his chin. Another fist drove into his gut, driving him into the backboard of the chair and he gagged and heaved, more vomit dribbling up his throat and past slack lips. There was blood mixed in with it and he didn’t think it was from a cut inside his mouth this time.

“Don’t worry.” The reaper said placating, “We’ll hose him down and you can finish up.”

It was almost like being hit again, that calm, implacable statement of intent. His optimism had faded somewhere along the way, or been wrenched out of him. The expectation of Ken and Yoji bursting through that door had dwindled, replaced by the mind numbing dread that they would continue to sit outside that hole in the sewer waiting patiently for his signal or the appearance of the Reaper well into the hours of the morning.

The reaper pushed his head back, fingers curling in sweat dampened hair, staring down with the dead black eyes of a snake. “You are dirty. A contemptible, sordid little whore. Say it for me. Say for them. Tell us what a filthy whore you are.”

The camera loomed close, waiting, a window to a thousand hungry eyes. Aya didn’t look at it. He fixed his gaze on the Reaper’s placid stare and whispered. “Fuck you.”

Ken sat on one side of the hole and Yoji on the other, the both of them wet and cold enough that it hardly mattered that the cold dampness of algae covered stone seeped up through the seat of their jeans. Yoji had tried to start up a whispered conversation, but Ken had nixed that attempt with a warning stare and a meaningful glance over his shoulder at the room beyond the hole. As if the mice were going to be offended by the noise, because he doubted anyone clanking down those rusty metal stairs would be able to hear whispers in the dark. Ken like Aya, took the job damned seriously and was not to be distracted in the process of it. If anyone could be accused of letting their attention waver during a mission, it would more likely be him . . . Yoji blinked in mid muse, wondering where that had come from and what in hell his unruly memories had to base it upon. But other than the absolute knowledge that Aya and Ken tended to have considerably more focus than himself, no other insights came.

He looked at his watch, figuring hours and hours had passed, but in reality, it had barely been two. It simply felt like six, sitting here with his back against a cold stone wall and his ass so cold it was numb.

“Twelve-thirty.” He whispered to Ken when Ken lifted an inquiring eyebrow. Ken sighed, no doubt feeling the cold and the wet every bit as much as Yoji, just more stoic about it. After a moment he reached into his jacket pocket and got out his phone, checking for messages. There were apparently several. He scrolled through the text message and his eyes went wide and stricken.

“Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.”

“What?” Yoji demanded, unnerved by the look of dismay. Ken thrust the phone at him, even as he was activating the detonator for the charges around the hole.

“Move.” Ken was urging him down the tunnel and Yoji let him push him ahead of him, as he read the simple text messages. Aya compromised. Broadcast in progress. Siberian, respond.

But, before the cold knot of fear could truly find a place next to his heart, the wall exploded filling the tunnel with dust and smoke . . . .