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18+ Language Mature Content

The Lie that Saved the World Chapter 14: A familiar foe

by VengefulReaper


Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language and mature content.

As Sigvald was led down the dimly lit hallway, the air grew heavy. The sound of their footsteps echoed ominously, reverberating through the corridor. The fluorescent lights overhead seemed to cast a cold, unforgiving glare on the proceedings.

Ethan's grip tightened around his gun, his knuckles turning white. He couldn't help but feel a knot of anxiety in his stomach, knowing what awaited Sigvald in the interrogation room. The Alliance's reputation for ruthless tactics and brutal questioning methods was precisely why Duncan allowed Sigvald to be taken to the Alliance base instead of prison.

Whispers echoed among the senior operatives who watched in disbelief as Sigvald was now under their control. Ethan assumed that merely the idea of Sigvald in cuffs was something most operatives never thought they’d see.

The silence suffocated them, broken only by the sound of their footsteps and the occasional creaking of the floor beneath them. Time seemed to stretch with each footstep and Ethan’s hand began to quiver.

His mind raced; his thoughts consumed with the urgency of the bio-weapon crisis yet also enraged by the massacre that had taken place only minutes ago. He knew that the clock was ticking, and the lives of countless innocents hung in the balance.

As they approached the interrogation room, the heavy iron door swung open. The room was surrounded by reinforced glass such that the conversation inside could be heard from the observation desk outside. Steve pushed Sigvald in with the barrel of his gun and forced him to take a seat. By brute strength, Steve couldn’t force Sigvald to do anything given his stature, but Sigvald submitted and sat down with a thud.

“The Council requests our presence… aside from Jim and Ethan,” Steve said to the entourage of infiltrators. He turned to Jim. “The floor is yours until I’m back.”

Jim nodded curtly, turning his attention to the prisoner in front of him. “I’ve got Ethan with me. If I want to extract relevant information from Sigvald, he can help me the most.”

Steve’s gaze stiffened. “No physical interrogation. We are, as of right now, unaware of the political status he holds if SEKT is now the ruling force of Iassor. We could just be keeping its new king in cuffs.”

Jim’s eyes flicked over to Sigvald who had dropped his gaze to the metal table and had not looked up since he’d sat down. “Understood. I’ll keep it civil… by your standards, of course.”

Steve nodded and motioned for the rest of the infiltrator squad to follow him to the command centre. Ethan stood alongside Jim, staring at Sigvald. He felt a familiar aura around Sigvald. The prisoner standing before him resembled someone familiar, but he couldn’t place his finger on it. He tried to sneak in a look at the man’s face, but it was shrouded in the shadow his body cast in the room.

While the main objective of the interrogation was to determine the details of the bio-weapon threat, Ethan found himself far more interested on Sigvald’s motives.

Why would a leader of a secret organization who was an expert at evading the scouts of the Alliance hand himself over in public? He seemed to act on the same side as Ethan in that situation. He wanted to kill Duncan more than any of them. Given Ethan’s new assessment of Duncan, he was sure there was more to hate about Duncan than just the execution he’d ordered.

The light above them flickered intermittently. Jim motioned for Ethan to grab a chair and sit beside him.

Ethan stuttered. “Uh… Shouldn’t I stand…outside or something?”

“You are far more familiar with the subject at hand than me. I need you to call him out if he spouts bullshit like he often does,” Jim replied cordially.

Ethan nodded and sat beside his colleague.

“Interesting… So, this is what the mighty Alliance has crumbled to?” Sigvald finally said, breaking the tension in the room. “A basement with dull rooms and even duller people. What happened to the spirit of good, huh?”

There was something familiar about his voice. Its slithery tone made Ethan's spine tingle.  

Jim flicked his eyes to Sigvald’s cuffed hands and shrugged. “I’d say we’re doing better than SEKT.” He leaned forward. “What’s far more interesting to me is your show at the rally you put on. You’re not the dramatic type.”

Sigvald shrugged. “Someone had to try and save those people.”

“I don’t believe you could ever have such a noble goal,” Jim replied. “I think you wanted to kill Duncan whether he executed those Beltians or not.”

“Who wouldn’t, Jim? You, John, Breach, and Steve, in particular, would very much like a piece of that man for many reasons.”

“So, what’s your bone to pick with him then?” Jim countered.

“I don’t want to see Beltians be oppressed the way they are here. Duncan is at the forefront of that oppression. If he dies, it’s a major victory for us,” Sigvald said. “Beltians here are an uneducated, brainwashed minority who attribute their struggles to everyone other than Duncan and his followers. They’re misdirected, deceived, and sometimes gaslit by the media. They see Duncan as a hero just like everyone else.”

Ethan stroked his chin in thought. Beltians were certainly aware of their struggles, however, Sigvald had a point. But if Sigvald truly wanted to free Beltians from this oppression, why would he purposefully pit himself against the minority by attempting to kill the one person they admire?

He blinked twice to wake the user interface of his cyber eye and pulled up a window with the latest news. He flicked through all the articles and blogs he could find. Mixed opinions for once, Ethan surmised from the plethora of headlines he had skimmed through within seconds. The news was still fresh and given another twenty-four hours, censorship would have struck down most negative press. All South Africa will see by evening is justice.

For the first time, Sigvald moved his face into the light, his scars fully realized. It was then that Ethan noticed something about the prisoner in front of him that made his heart stop. Fuck...

“Scorpion,” he whispered. The scar across his right eye was unmistakable. 

Sigvald calmly tilted his head towards Ethan. “You know who I am?”

“The Magician of the Iassor Mines. Owner of the largest illegal Secronium refinery and mine in all of Iassor. You are rumoured to be able to interface with any piece of technology in the room. Magic, as the Beltians call it,” Ethan said. “One of the last Sec-users to possess an active isotope of the element with close to 100% purity.”

Sigvald furrowed his eyebrows. Jim seemed equally surprised. “How do you know about Secronium isotopes? That was classified information known only to me and a handful of individuals during the war.”

“I conducted research with refined Secronium in a lab for years. I know a thing or two,” Ethan said. He knew exactly who Sigvald was, and he was far more dangerous than the Alliance gave him credit for. Above all that, the matter between him and Sigvald was now personal.

Sigvald composed himself in an instant and returned to his blank expression. “The Rider. More specifically, Ethan James Rider. Hailey Steinberg's son and the man who stole a fortune worth of Secronium from my refinery.” He cracked a small grin. "Storm sends his regards."

Jim firmly grabbed hold of Ethan and practically dragged him out of the interrogation room. For a moment, Ethan saw half a smile creep up Sigvald’s scarred face. Jim slammed the door shut and held Ethan tightly by his shirt.

"You didn't tell me you two knew each other?" Jim hissed. 

"I didn't know I met him," Ethan said in his defense.

"What? How do you not recognize his face?" 

"He used to be coated in metallic armour. I got a glimpse of his face maybe once or twice. The only thing that actually showed through that armour was his scar." 

“Listen to me, Ethan. You have to watch what you say and the information you give away about yourself. We are interrogating him not being interrogated by him, remember? You've just put a target on your back since you're one of the few individuals who actually cracked the code.”

Fair, Ethan thought. “Sorry,” he apologized. “I’ll let you take it from here.”

Jim released Ethan of his grip but still held his gaze. “Never let anyone know about this other than Steve and the infiltrators. The knowledge you possess is a fragment of history that was lost…for very good reasons. Sigvald and Duncan would very much love to weaponize the knowledge you have.”

Ethan gulped. He suddenly remembered a conversation from a few months ago. “My former boss, Max Ceilemans, approached me one day and asked me to activate an invention I had made which used refined Secronium. He said the people who asked him to do this were ‘worse than thugs’.”

“Max was recently approached by SEKT operatives,” Jim said to himself. “That’s what Steve told me when we discussed the council meeting he had.” He scratched his head in thought. “Park this discussion for now. We’ll bring it up once Steve and the infils get back. From what you’ve told me and from Sigvald’s interest in this tangent, there’s something more than the bioweapon at play.” He turned away and opened the door to the interrogation room once more. “Follow my lead and we’ll attempt to decipher another piece of the puzzle.”

“Sorry… again,” Ethan said sincerely. “This is quite new to me.”

Jim smiled, for once. “My first time went a whole lot worse.”

Ethan returned his smile with a half-hearted one. Never in his lifetime would he have imagined himself holding such dangerous information. The silver lining to all this was that the Secronium isotope that Sigvald possessed and perhaps planned to weaponize was a result of hybridization, a process of exciting an electron belt of an element to achieve a more conductive state. Secronium had a massive energy threshold to activate it that could only be met with a nuclear-powered synthesizer which would only be available in the uppermost research facilities. The refined metal Sigvald produced was far from an isotope, thus rendering it nothing more than a poison.

But if raw Secronium was nothing more than a poison, how were the miners on the Belt handling it in its refined form? Ethan handled only ten kilograms of it (which was still a lot) and he managed to reduce his lifespan to three years. Sigvald and other members of his syndicate have been alive for decades. Could there be a cure that only Sigvald possesses? Perhaps this wasn’t the end for him.

“Ethan? You coming?”

Ethan shook himself out of his deep thoughts. “Yeah, sorry… I was distracted for a second.”

“Done with your little pep talk?” Sigvald taunted.

Jim dismissed his comment. “Let’s talk about what I really want to know from you.”

“What makes you think you’ll get it?” Sigvald replied, leaning forward. “You can’t lay a hand on me so all you’ve got are words.”

“Who’s to say I can’t?”

Sigvald relaxed his muscles after a lengthy silence. “Well, before I was a refugee and an insurgent. You could rip my nails off if you wanted to. Now, since SEKT holds the political power on the Belt, that makes me a political figure… with diplomatic immunity.”

“You assaulted our president. You’ve lost that right.”

“That may be here, but what about on the Belt? A freedom fighter turned politician suddenly held to account for attempting to kill the one man oppressing our people. What a scandal!” Sigvald mocked. He let out a chuckle. “You may be the best spy I have ever seen but you’re such an ignorant politician. Leave that to your boss, would you?”

Hold on a minute… He’s a political figure and the leader of SEKT… and he’s here, Ethan thought. “What’s the king of Iassor doing down here on Earth at a rally? That is if you are actually its king. I can’t help but ask the question…If you’re down here, who’s sitting on the thrown up there?”

Sigvald fell silent. Jim smiled wryly. “Answer the kid’s question, your highness.”

Sigvald shifted in his seat. “A rather observant kid.” He tapped his feet on the floor. “I can stir a rebellion, but the thrown goes to the heir when the king is assassinated. Fortunately, the former prince who was exiled happened to be a senior in SEKT’s ranks. He’s the one up there. I’m still the one who calls the shots.”

“Sure,” Ethan said sarcastically. “A man who rules his minions through fear surely retains his authority when the tides of power shift.”

“Much has changed since your dealings with me years ago, Ethan. You can never earn the trust of criminals these days. Not when money is involved.”

So, he does know me, Ethan surmised. I went by only my last name on Iassor. There was no way he could have known my first name unless he’d known me before we met on the Belt.

“So, money is your motive?” Jim prodded. “Money and a bit of freedom?”

Sigvald grinned. “Freedom and a bit of money.”

“By what? Wiping all of us out with a bioweapon…again?”

Again? What did he mean by ‘again’?

“Given what happened today, who do you think Duncan would use a bioweapon on if I had to hand it to him on a silver platter right now?”

“You’re basing your action on a ‘what if’?” Jim asked, perplexed.

Sigvald sighed. He closed his eyes for a second, pondering on his next response.

In an instant, the cuffs bounding him clicked open and the giant of a man rose to his feet. Ethan froze in his place. Jim reached for the gun in his holster immediately. Sigvald’s left eye snapped open, and metal slithered around his arm until it was coated in scaly metal shards. A jade-green light cast down upon Jim. Jim’s muscles froze up. He gritted his teeth as his knees buckled under him.

“If that ‘what if’ comes true, Beltians are toast. I didn't ask you to lay down your lives for slaughter,” Sigvald boomed. “I will protect my people no matter the cost. I will crush every single one of you if I have to. If you dare to stand a chance, I suggest you match my resolve.”

"You're twisted and evil. That's all you've ever been," Jim hissed through his pain. 

Sigvald leaned down next to Jim. "Sometimes the world's greatest blessing comes through the actions of a tyrant. Someone has to be that tyrant. Someone has to take up that evil. That's not twisted... it's rational."

With his arm still extended and radiating a jade green light, he shifted his eye to Ethan’s. Ethan felt a surge of energy rush through his mind. An onslaught on information flooded his mind. Something so familiar yet distant flashed before him. Images, screams, cries, gas rushing through streets and Sigvald watching all of it from above.

“Get out of my fucking head!” Ethan yelled. “Get out!”

Sigvald released his grasp on Ethan’s mind, the glow in his eyes subsiding ever so slightly. He rushed out the door, dropping the Alliance operatives in the upper bunker to their knees just like Jim. For some reason, Sigvald’s ‘power’ failed to work on Ethan.

“Ethan…” Jim hissed as he began to recover from the excruciating pain that was evident in his pleading eyes. “Get him.”

Ethan nodded, his mind still clouded by Sigvald's effect. He snatched Jim's gun from the floor and burst out of the interrogation room, the echo of his hurried footsteps reverberating through the dimly lit hallway. Each step felt like an eternity as he pushed through the lingering migraine slowly siphoning his focus.

Bodies lay strewn across the floor, incapacitated by Sigvald's…thing. He approached the first door, violently swinging it open, only to find a room filled with unconscious guards. The second door was merely a weapon’s room, and the third was locked shut. Fortunately for him, Sigvald was probably equally lost.

Finally, the fourth door slammed open, revealing the teleporting room before him. The blinking control panels and the cylindrical chambers confirmed it. Inside, he could see Sigvald stepping into one of the stations.

Ethan's grip on the gun tightened. Sigvald glared at Ethan, but Ethan felt nothing more than a tingle in his cranium. Surprised, Sigvald’s eyebrows furrowed as he raised a pistol and pointed it at Ethan. The gun clicked, and to Ethan's relief, he realized Sigvald had picked up his gun which was conveniently out of bullets after expending the magazine at the rally.

Time was running out, and he couldn't let Sigvald escape. Ethan raised the gun and fired. The bullets flew around the room erratically. Ethan could barely hit anything with the state his mind was in. Sigvald initialized the teleporter.

Please keep your hands inside the terminal.

“No, no, no, no!” Ethan hissed as his shots missed the target entirely. His world began to spin and twist like a hallucination.

“You know who I am. You know what I did. You know where to find me,” Sigvald said ominously. His eyes flashed green once more as he shot a glance at the control panel of the teleporter. “You slipped through my fingers years ago. Consider us even.”

Teleporting in 3…2…1…

“Fuck!” Ethan yelled as Sigvald disappeared from sight. The teleporter began to beep periodically. The screen turned red, and the machine began to overheat. Sigvald had triggered a component in the teleporter… which was incidentally flammable. The same component was used to blow up the teleporting station three months ago.

“Fuck.”

Ethan pulled himself together and with whatever strength he had left, ran out of the room and shut the metal door. The reinforced door would absorb most of the blast. He closed his eyes, applying as much force as he could on the door to keep it shut.

“Don’t die. Don’t die. Don’t die,” he whispered.

Jim ran down the corridor, approaching Ethan. "Ethan!"

“Stay back!” Ethan warned. “It’s about to blo—”

The door burst open, and a wave of flames washed over Ethan. He stumbled and rolled until he hit his back against the corridor wall. Expecting the worst, he closed his eyes. He thought he’d feel the breath of the flame blow across his face and the heat engulf his body.

A firm hand grabbed him by his tattered shirt and tossed him aside, away from the explosion. An incredibly concerned blind man stared down at him, his grey eyes somehow examining his state.

“I assume he’s injured,” he said.

“I’ll get him to the med bay. Second time in two fucking days…” Amber's faint voice echoed.

“Now, Amber!”

Steve entered the scene. “Breach, get the extinguishers! Jim, go with Amber to the medical bay. The rest...” he glanced at the ceiling that was cracking. The walls shook with the explosion. "Come with me. We need to evacuate the base. Now!"

Questions

As you can probably tell by how long I took this one down for editing, I had issues writing this one. Rewrote almost all of it and cut out three-quarters of the original. Your thoughts on the revelations in this chapter and how they were presented would really help me streamline this one (if it isn't cohesive).

1. Can you follow how each of the characters made conclusions from the information they received? (does it make sense?)

2. Do you feel like anything introduced here kind of popped out of nowhere? Something too convenient or too sudden?


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Tue Aug 22, 2023 8:51 pm
IcyFlame wrote a review...



Hey Reaper! I saw the notifications for you replying to my older reviews, and realised I'd never gotten around to reviewing this chapter! I like that you've posed questions at the bottom to help me focus my review, so let's get into it :)

“The Council requests our presence… aside from Jim and Ethan,” Steve said to the entourage of infiltrators. He turned to Jim. “The floor is yours until I’m back.”

This confused me for a minute, because I thought this was a hint for Jim and Ethan to leave, rather than them being the only ones to stay!

His mind raced; his thoughts consumed with the urgency of the bio-weapon crisis yet also enraged by the massacre that had taken place only minutes ago. He knew that the clock was ticking, and the lives of countless innocents hung in the balance.

I like this as a summary of the situation. It's short and succinct but very helpful!

“The Magician of the Iassor Mines. Owner of the largest illegal Secronium refinery and mine in all of Iassor. You are rumoured to be able to interface with any piece of technology in the room. Magic, as the Beltians call it,” Ethan said. “One of the last Sec-users to possess an active isotope of the element with close to 100% purity.”

Oof he's known by a lot of names! It might start to get hard to keep track of who he is if we're going to refer to him by all of these going forward.

I was kind of surprised when he and Ethan then seemed to know each other. I hadn't realised there was one specific person that he was stealing the Secronium from so the revelation was kind of confusing to me in that specific way. To answer your question, I was able to follow the conclusions, I was just surprised at the connections that were made.

Nothing felt too convenient or too sudden for me either. I only had vague recollections of Storm though, so I that one took me a little while to figure out!

This feels like quite a pivotal point in the plot in terms of Ethan and Adrian's relationship to each other going forward. I'm not too sure what to expect from all of it but I certainly thought this was an interesting chapter!

Hope this was helpful!

Icy




VengefulReaper says...


Hey Icy!

I am going to stick to Adrian as his name for the narrator from now on. His aliases will pop up here and there but it won't be the main name I'll be referring to him as. I'm hoping that alleviates the confusion.

I hadn't realised there was one specific person that he was stealing the Secronium from so the revelation was kind of confusing to me in that specific way.

truth be told, I just forgot to set that one up lol. I'll have to throw it in somewhere in the prologue so it is at least referenced.

Thanks for the review, Icy!
-Reaper



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Sun Aug 06, 2023 12:23 am
Liminality wrote a review...



Hi Reaper! I just realised in my last review I’d forgotten Adrian had already been revealed to be ‘Sigvald’ – super sorry about that! (I think in my head I was also mixing up Jim and John together, but now that I’ve clarified who is who the past few chapters make a lot more sense ^^’) Anyhow, I’m here to review this chapter of yours!

General Impressions

This chapter has a really tense atmosphere, which I like, because it really does feel like it’s a confrontation with the main antagonist.

Whispers echoed among the senior operatives who watched in disbelief as Sigvald was now under their control. Ethan assumed that merely the idea of Sigvald in cuffs was something most operatives never thought they’d see.

I thought this was a believable reaction. Just quiet shock, maybe not knowing whether to celebrate or to be worried about what comes next.
He couldn't help but feel a knot of anxiety in his stomach, knowing what awaited Sigvald in the interrogation room. The Alliance's reputation for ruthless tactics and brutal questioning methods was precisely why Duncan allowed Sigvald to be taken to the Alliance base instead of prison.

I also like this moment. Ethan’s nervousness compared to Jim makes sense to me cause Ethan is only a recent Alliance member.
The silence suffocated them, broken only by the sound of their footsteps and the occasional creaking of the floor beneath them. Time seemed to stretch with each footstep and Ethan’s hand began to quiver.

The details in this paragraphs are small but help to set up the atmosphere.
“Who wouldn’t, Jim? You, John, Breach, and Steve, in particular, would very much like a piece of that man for many reasons.”

I wonder why Breach is mentioned here but not Amber? Perhaps I just can’t remember Breach’s backstory – I only remember that Breach dislikes Jim. The previous chapter showed that Amber’s son was being threatened implicitly by Duncan, I think. That and what happened to John’s daughter is what I have in my immediate memory.

Character Thought Processes
I thought the characters’ inferences made sense overall.
Steve’s gaze stiffened. “No physical interrogation. We are, as of right now, unaware of the political status he holds if SEKT is now the ruling force of Iassor. We could just be keeping its new king in cuffs.”

Though it shows Ethan’s earlier concerns to be a little less pressing, Steve’s decision seems reasonable here. After all, they have yet to receive much information from the situation with the Beltians.
But if Sigvald truly wanted to free Beltians from this oppression, why would he purposefully pit himself against the minority by attempting to kill the one person they admire?

I agree with Ethan here – there’s something that doesn’t add up about Sigvald’s story. I think the gist of the story in this chapter is that Sigvald doesn’t really want to free Beltians from oppression for the sake of it – it’s like there’s an undertone there for him which is personal and not entirely altruistic. From his dialogue it also seems like Sigvald looks down on the other Beltians (at least the ones on Earth).

Plot

I think Sigvald being really good at using Secronium makes sense because I remember something like that being mentioned in the prologue chapters. I also thought there was continuity in the reveal of how Ethan obtained all his Secronium, which was mentioned before.
The codenames and the fact that he and Ethan knew each other was slightly more sudden? I don’t remember too many indications of Sigvald being the person Ethan stole the secronium from – or that there was a specific person that was ‘robbed’. I also don’t really feel the impact of “Storm sends his regards” because I can’t really guess who Storm might be.

Overall
Sigvald and other members of his syndicate have been alive for decades. Could there be a cure that only Sigvald possesses? Perhaps this wasn’t the end for him.

It’s interesting that now Ethan may want some info out of Sigvald for personal reasons. I can see this being partially a driving force for the story from this point on. I’m also curious about those visions Sigvald put into Ethan’s head. It makes me wonder if there’s a reason why he chose to show Ethan those visions (of a suppressed riot?) specifically.
Overall, I thought this was an interesting chapter and am glad to see Sigvald’s role with regards to Ethan clarified.

Let me know if you’d like more feedback on something specific!
-Lim




VengefulReaper says...


Hi Lim. Thanks for the review!

Regarding the mention of Storm. He was the contact that called Ethan in the prologue when he was receiving Secronium (just before he was fired). He later deletes the contact when he first learned he was poisoned. It is such a tiny one-line mention that I should probably take out xD. I am really glad you felt the tense atmosphere I was trying to create.

Also, just wanted some advice about naming. Adrian is his actual name and Ethan knows him as Sigvald, Scorpion and Adrian now. Going forward, would it simplify things to just use his real name instead of several aliases?

Sure the characters call him Sigvald instead of Adrian but what%u2019s the easiest convention to stick with for the narrator?
-Reaper



Liminality says...


Hi Reaper!

Also, just wanted some advice about naming. Adrian is his actual name and Ethan knows him as Sigvald, Scorpion and Adrian now. Going forward, would it simplify things to just use his real name instead of several aliases?


I think using Adrian would be a good idea? So long as there's a 'main name' that is used the most frequently, I think readers would be able to figure out from context that it's him.

-Lim




You are going to love some of your characters because they are you, or some facet of you, and you are going to hate some characters for the same reason.
— Anne Lamott