His head was pounding, and his throat hurt. Christophe started to reach up to rub at his eyes, but something had hold of his arm. He tried again, and realized his arms were secured together. Memories came flooding back, and he began yanking at the restraints. They failed to budge. Slowly, he sat up. He was alone, in what looked like a garage. It was illuminated by what light came in through a boarded-up window. And he was alone.
He started to shift position, and there was a tinkering sound. He looked down to see a length of chain encircled his ankle, secured with a padlock. The other end was secured around a support pillar. “Great.” His boots had been removed, and he saw no sign of them. He tried to scrap the chain off with his other foot. Christophe began looking around, trying to see if there was anything he could use to free his wrists from the zip ties.
Some fumbling got him to a nail sticking out of the floor. He began sawing his wrists over it, wincing when he caught skin. “Come on. Come on.” It took what seemed like ages, but finally a tug succeeded in separating the restraints. Immediately he leaned forward and began trying to get off the chain. There was no slack in the chain.
Christophe was trying to pick the lock with a bit of wire he’d found when he heard footsteps. He quickly hid the wire in his clothes as his captor entered the building. “Good. Awake.” The larger man shrugged. “Thirsty?” The man held out a bottle of water, then tilted his head. “Wrist is bleeding.” He tossed the water down next to Christophe, then grabbed a small box and tossed that to him as well.
A glance proved it was a first aid kit. Christophe exhaled, then grabbed the water bottle and opened it. “What do you want with me?” He took a long drink.
“Bait.” The man shrugged. Somewhere, he’d found clothes. Christophe frowned when he realized that the man was wearing his boots. “Your father…” The man waved a hand, then went back to looking through the bag he’d brought with him. “Is an asshole.”
“He is not.” Christophe glared. Then he blinked. “You took me as bait for my father.”
The man nodded. “And to punish your father.”
That part didn’t sound good. Christophe exhaled. “I was kind to you. I—”
“You live. In one piece.” The man smiled. “I am kind to you. See? Brought bandages. Tend your wound, or I will.” He tilted his head. “What is wrong with your name?”
“What is…” Christophe pulled the first aid kit over and opened it. “What do you mean what is wrong with my name?”
“Is missing letters. Your parents not love you enough to give you a whole name?”
“Missing…” Christophe glared. “It’s French.”
“Thought Americans didn’t like French. Cheese-eating surrender monkeys.” The man took a bottle of water for himself. “Though that does explain your father.”
“You’re a dick.” He took ointment out of the kit and began putting it on the scratches the nail had made.
“Been called worse.” He opened the water and drank it.
“So, what do I call you?” Christophe grabbed a bandage. “Dick?” He glared. “Asshole?”
“Brave now.” The man smiled. “Master.”
“What?” Christophe blinked.
“I am Lykos.” The man set the half-empty bottle down. “You will call me Master.”
“I won’t do anything of the —” Christophe cut himself off when the man produced a long bladed knife. He swallowed.
His captive went pale at the sight of the knife. Lykos stabbed it point down into the table, then reached into the bag again. He removed the handcuffs and tossed them to Christophe. “Behind back.”
Christophe took a couple deep breaths, then picked up the cuffs. He stared up at Lykos. “What do you want with me?”
He moved fast, grabbing the knife by the handle and flinging it. It hit the pillar only an inch above Christophe’s head and stuck there in the wood, swaying just a little. Christophe’s eyes went wide. Lykos strode forward, yanked the knife out, then pointed the blade at Christophe. “Behind back.”
The young man swallowed again, then clicked the cuff closed around his right wrist. He put his hands behind his back, and clicked the cuff closed around his left wrist. “Alright.”
“Good boy.” Lykos stepped back and went to the bag. He opened one of the containers of food, then set it on the ground in front of Christophe. “Eat.”
“You…” Christophe yanked at the cuffs binding his wrists. “You just made me cuff myself.” He shook his head. “How am I supposed to —”
Lykos cut him off by grabbing him by the back of the head and shoving his face toward the container. He stopped just short of pushing the young man’s nose into the rice. “Your father…” He rubbed his thumb across the young man’s short brown hair. “Fed me like a dog.” Gently, he traced the point of the blade down the side of his captive’s throat. “Eat.”
It took a few moments, but Christophe bent a little lower and took a bite out of the rice. Lykos released him and went back to the bag to fetch his own food. The take-out Chinese was fairly bad, but Christophe hadn’t had much cash in his wallet and the hunting around here was poor. The town was barely surviving. The soldiers weren’t searching it yet, though he doubted it would be long. He’d seen helicopters over the wood, but the old garage he’d found was shadowed by trees and he doubted they knew how fast he could travel overland. By tomorrow though, this would be within the perimeter of their search. And he’d no intention of remaining here.
The dish was barely a third gone when Christophe pulled away from it. He considered forcing the issue, and decided against it. The young soldier would get hungry soon enough, and that had its own means of securing cooperation. He shrugged and picked up the other container of food, then finished it off himself. Then he took the keys out of his pocket.
First, he unfastened the chain from the pillar. Instead of freeing Christophe’s ankle, however, he lunged and wrapped the loose end around the young man’s neck. “Wait, what…” Christophe tried to pull back as Lykos clicked the lock closed.
“We move.” He unfastened the chain from around the young man’s ankle, then frowned. He rolled his eyes, then took the boots off and began putting them back on Christophe. The young man’s feet weren’t made for overland travel. While Christophe wasn’t out of shape, he also wasn’t particularly muscular. Not what Lykos would have expected from a soldier. Oh well. One way or another, he’d make sure Christophe kept up.
“Move to where?” Christophe watched as the man, Lykos, replaced his boots and tied them. No answer was forthcoming. “Move to —”
A jerk on the chain pull him to his feet. He coughed. “You find out soon.” Lykos shrugged, then used the chain like a leash to haul him toward the exit.
Outside revealed they were still in the woods, and the trees looked similar to those around the base. They hadn’t gotten far then. They were probably in one of the two small towns near the base. Either way, a stranger that wasn’t in a soldier’s uniform would stand out, and Lykos’s presence would be reported. His father probably already knew and was on his way.
Except as near as he could tell, Lykos was dragging him deeper into the forest. He scuffed his feet, trying to ensure he left as clear a trail as possible. Lykos shot him an amused look. Christophe shot back a look he hoped was defiant. “You’ll have a better chance if you let me go. As long as you have me, they’ll never stop hunting you. Marines don’t leave men behind.”
“Are many graves that say otherwise.” Lykos twitched a shoulder.
“They’ll be coming after me.”
“I know.” Lykos smiled, showing strangely sharp teeth.
It was irritating, how easily the man could haul him around. Maybe there was some truth to the story that Lykos had broken out of the first cage. He was larger than Christophe, and powerfully built. Each time Christophe tried to stop his forward momentum, Lykos was easily able to keep him moving. Granted, the chain around his neck did give the man a lot of leverage. His captor set a pace fast enough that Christophe nearly had to jog to keep up.
By the time the man stopped for water, Christophe was nearing exhaustion. He could feel blisters starting to form on his feat. He took a couple deep breaths, then sank to his knees. “I can’t…”
“Tin soldier…” Lykos rolled his eyes. “Soft.” He opened a water bottle, then held it for Christophe to drink.
He drank, glaring a bit as the bottle was taken away before he was done. “We’ve been running all morning.” He panted. “I think my feet are bleeding.”
“Ugh.” Lykos grabbed him and tossed him over a fallen log. Christophe winced as one of his boots was yanked off. Lykos made another displeased sound, and Christophe saw the boot get tossed into the brush before Lykos yanked the other one off. It followed. “Things pinch; thought at least they fit your feet.”
“They were new.” Christophe made a frustrated sound.
“Get moving.” Lykos rose and tugged the chain.
“No.” Christophe shook his head. “I’m not going anywhere with you and I sure as hell am not running through the woods barefoot.” He glared at his captor.
So his captive did have a backbone. A fragile one, but a backbone. Lykos shrugged and walked over to the tree. He examined a couple of the branches and picked one out. “Get on feet.”
“No.” Christophe glared up at him. “My father will —”
In a single swift motion, he snapped the branch off the tree. Then he reached down, grabbed Christophe by the collar, and tossed him over the log again. He put a knee down on Christophe’s back to hold the struggling young man in place, then yanked Christophe’s pants down. The makeshift switch laid across Christophe’s buttocks with a solid thud, eliciting a cry of both surprise and pain from the young man. He did it five more times as Christophe tried to thrash his way free, then yanked the pants back up. Then Lykos stood. “Get on feet.”
“You fucking fuck…” Christophe started shaking his head. His face was red. “You —”
Lykos shrugged, then pushed him down again. Immediately Christophe began struggling. “Stop, don’t—” He yelped as Lykos brought the switch down five more times.
Then he stood again. “Get on feet.”
It took Christophe a couple seconds, but he got to his feet. “Fucking bastard, my father is—”
He caught Christophe by the throat and yanked him forward a half step. “Tongue is civil…” He gave the switch a pointed look. “Or ass is sore. Choice yours.”
Christophe glared again, but swallowed and remained silent.
He bit back a curse as he stepped on yet another sharp rock. At least his captor had slowed their pace. Christophe glared at the man in front of him. His rear end was still smarting. The fucking bastard had spanked him like a recalcitrant child. The humiliation burned almost as much as the pain.
Christophe nearly collapsed when they stopped again. Lykos gestured for him to sit, then grabbed one of his ankles to examine his foot. “Soft.”
“I’m walking barefoot through the woods.” Christophe glared.
“Not barefoot.” Lykos let go of his ankle, then held a water bottle for him. “Socks.” Lykos smirked, then glanced down at his own feet. He was also wearing just socks. “Today’s military.” He rolled his eyes.
After swallowing the last of the water, Christophe took a couple deep breaths. “Where are you taking me?”
“I figured that much already.” Christophe rolled his neck. The chain was uncomfortable, and he was pretty sure it had left bruises. “My father already captured you once. He’ll catch you again.”
“Let guard down.” Lykos nodded. “Tried to play human. Mistake.”
“Tried to…” Christophe blinked. “You are human.”
Lykos laughed. “Father has you play soldier. Keeps you in dark. Sets you to guard and does not tell what you guard.” He shook his head, then leaned in closer. Christophe recoiled when he saw the man’s eyes. The pupils had changed from normal to catlike slits. “Do I look human…” His smile revealed fangs. “To you?”