Chapter 35: Next Method
"Nnnnhhhhh..." Merrick groaned in pain as he huddled in the corner of the cell. The lights are blazing bight upon him, with the white walls reflecting the blaring light of the electric bulbs above him. "It's so hot..." He muttered quietly as he cringed slightly. His fair skin has a slightly red tint from a whole week of being under these imitation suns. His hand pushed against his hot shoulder in attempt cool off at least one spot on his baked back, yet to no avail.
"Dammit..." Merrick whimpered, "... Why... Why are they doing this..." He clenched his eyes as he pushed his face into his arms, "Adam..."
Nigel looks at the screen, where the security camera looks upon the merman. He shakes his head as he looks at the pitiful young man. This can be so much easier if this kid would just talk. Instead, he'd rather spend his free time in an Easy-Bake Oven. It's not like he's planning on invading the ocean. He just wants to discover the ocean more and more.
"... I'm so close..." He muttered as he glanced at the heart symbol tattoo on the back of Merrick's neck. This harsh light treatment CAN'T be any good for him - it HAS to be at least a little damaging to his body, being a fish and all. So why does he insist on cooking himself rare?
Nigel took a talkie up to his mouth, and pressed the button on the side, "Bring Merrick to the Interrogation Room. Let's try this again."
"Yessir." Came the voice on the other side.
Merrick huffed through his nose as the guards locked his ankles in place to the chair, placed handcuffs around his reddened wrists, and chained him to a bar on the middle of the table - just yesterday, he took a swipe at Nigel out of frustration.
Finally, the head-honcho walked into the room again, taking his seat on the opposite side of the table facing Merrick, with the two guards standing in place beside him.
"Now..." Nigel began, "Ready to answer a few questions?" Merrick just leered at him, like a panther ready to pounce and tear into him. Everyday each week, Merrick is stowed in that white cell with the burning lights, and Nigel has a couple of guards man-handle him into the interrogation room for about an hour or two of countless questions about merfolk - to which, Merrick either responds with silence or an angry remark, and then it's back to being chained up in the hot-spot. "Alright, here we go.
"What do you call your species?" Nigel asked. Merrick said nothing, "I know you're part fish, I'm just wondering if there are any other kinds of merfolk out there?" Merrick glared at him with poisonous daggers, "Say like, a mermaid that has the tail of a porpoise. Or maybe a merman who has the body of an eel. Ring any bells?" Merrick simply blinked as his deep blue eyes stayed locked onto Nigel's glasses, "Not even going to tell me that?"
Nothing but silence. Nigel leaned down on his side, and picked up a pitcher of water, and an empty glass. Merrick immediately felt an extremely powerful urge to lunge across the table, and douse himself with every drop of water in that glass pitcher, yet restraining himself with every once of willpower in his body. Nigel poured a glass of icy water, and held it up.
"This glass is yours if you answer a question-" The thin chain of metal clinked as Merrick reached out, but Nigel held his hand back with the water, "Just one." He said, "That's all I want today, and you get the pitcher. Now..." He continued, "How many types of merfolk are there in the sea?"
A fully detailed explanation almost leapt from Merrick's dry throat, had it not his resolve to remain silent. With great reluctance, he turned his head.
"Come on, Merrick." Nigel said, "One other subspecies? Not a single once of difference?" Merrick closed his eyes as he balled his hand into a slight fist, "Alright then." Nigel brought the glass to his lips, and gulped down the ice-cold water down his gullet. Merrick shook with rage as he can hear each glug of water drop down the man's neck.
Nigel picked up the pitcher, and poured another glass, and put it onto the table.
"How deep can you dive, Merrick?" He asked. Again, no response. "Come on. I'm really curious about how deep you can go."
Merrick opened his eyes, and looked at Nigel, "Why don't I take you diving into the sea sometime, and you can find out yourself?" Merrick retorted, "I'm really curious how long a human can last underwater without breathing."
"Now now," Nigel said as he tipped the glass to Merrick's direction before bringing it to his lips again, "No need to get dark..." With that, he took another swig of water. Merrick gritted his teeth as he watched the water disappear from the glass's bottom.
Nigel poured some more water into the glass, turning the pitcher upside down to get in the last few drops, and set it aside, "Now, there's a suspect we've been curious about for a while now." He put his hand into his coat pocket, and drew out a few pictures, and laid them out before Merrick. Each one of them are of a woman with tan skin, bright pink hair, bright orange fingernails and rather skant, breezy attire. Merrick blinked as he inwardly gasped as he looked over the photographs.
'Belinda...' He thought to himself, 'No... Above everything else, she's at least always careful...'
"We've had more than a few suspicions of her, but we don't have any hard evidence to prove anything... Except this one..." Nigel said as he pointed to a photo, where the woman's hand and forearm is white, "Now, what can you tell me?" He asked.
"..." Merrick looked at the indicated photograph closely. He took several seconds, and shook his head, "No."
"No?" Nigel said, "No what?" He asked.
"She's not a mermaid, if that's what you're asking me."
"So you DO know her, though?" Nigel said, his attention focused in on how Merrick is responding.
"I've only met her a few times," Merrick said, "She is the mate of one of Adam's friends. Honestly, I don't particularly like her," He added, "She was very rude to me when I made just one observation."
"And you're saying she's NOT a mermaid." Nigel said, "She wears a lot of bait and tackle. You realize that's not normal jewelry for humans, right?"
"No, she's not." Merrick said, an ounce of hatred and adding dash of frustration into his tone, but always with that drop of sincerity that every liar needs, "One merfolk can always tell one from another, and she's not one of us."
"What about the hooks and lures she's wearing on her ears and neck? Or about this white color on her arm?"
"How am I supposed to know? I don't know what or why you humans put shiny pieces on your face. And that white on her arm is probably some paint stuff, or this thing called 'Make-Up'. Adam once told me humans can alter their appearence with fake materials?"
"Good point..." Nigel said. He leaned forward, and looked Merrick straight in the eye, "So. You are telling me, in all honesty, that this lady is NOT a mermaid?"
"No. She is not." Merrick lied. If he can fool his mother, this arrogant ape is no challenge. "I swear it on the life of my Father."
"... Fine." Nigel said, "I'll take your word for it." He sat back in his chair, picked up the glass, and moved it to Merrick's side. Merrick took the glass of water to his chapped lips, and immediately chugged the wonderfully icy fluid into him.
Nigel brought the three photographs together, and put them into a thin folder. He turned to one of the guards, and held out the folder, "Write up what was said here, and put it in the Dead-End Files."
"Yessir." The guard accepted the folder, and went off.
Merrick groaned as he tried to swallow every drop of water. Before he could have more than a second after gulping down water, Nigel took the glass right out of his hand, along with the empty pitcher, and got up.
"Unlatch him, and take him to the Examination Lab."
"Yessir." Said the guard who came behind Merrick, and started to unlock the shackles on his tender red ankles.
"Wait, what do you mean???" Merrick asked as Nigel was about to leave, "Aren't you throwing me back to the heat place?"
"Yes, but first," Nigel turned around, just as the guard secured Merrick's arms behind his back, "Since you refuse answer questions about merfolk, we're putting you to forensic study for the day."
"But what does that MEAN?!" Merrick asked.
"I told you when you first came here," Nigel calmly said, "When we find a new creature, we break it down and study its anatomy, biology. In other words, we're taking a close look at your body. Your REAL body." He said with a smile before turning around.
"Th-Then!" Merrick struggled a few more times, "Will you let me go???" He asked, "You've kept me here in harsh light for seven suns, I can't take the constant heat anymore!" He begged, his eyes tearing up, "Are you going to let me go???"
There was a pause, before Nigel turned back to face him, "When you start answering my questions, I MIGHT think about it." With a sneer, Nigel turned away and began to walk away.
"You monster!!" Merrick snarled as the guard pulled him down the hall.
Merrick squirmed as his body was strapped down to a metal table. He grunted as the tight metal confines hurt his lightly scorched ankles and wrists. His wrists were chained down individually, but his ankles were cuffed together.
He huffed as he saw another human approach him. He has rounded glasses on, a green, paper mask over his mouth, and a white cap over his head. He also wears a long white coat. Merrick recognizes this human as a healer - these 'Doctors', that Yuri works so hard to become. There are a few other humans with white lab coats on in this room, doing their own work in this lab of strange devices and objects. Merrick can feel a lot of lightning channeling here, as well as many foreign smells and substances in here.
"Who are you??" Merrick asked him.
"My name is Dr Kaiser" He spoke in a very calm tone - the very sound of his voice sends a surge of suspence in Merrick's spine. He sounds calm, but also like that of a patient predator, "I am the Head of the Anatomy and Research here at the Agency of Oceanic Research. I specialize in autopsies and identifying various species of sea creatures, see what makes them tick. And I am very pleased to meet you."
"Gnnhh..." The more this human talks, the more Merrick wants to get away from him, "What are you going to do to me?" Merrick looked fearfully into his eyes.
"Unfortunately, nothing interesting today," Dr Kaiser said, "How I would love to see every inch and every drop of your DNA first hand, you're here to take a few X-Rays and give few samples for us to research. Speaking of which..." He then takes a rubber stripe, and forms a tourniquet around Merrick's right bicep. He takes a white square, and rubs it in circles around the space between Merrick's upper and forearm. Merrick remembers this - when Yuri injected saline when he was dehydrated, she had to 'clean it' with one of these wipes. He whimpers as he sees Kaiser pick up a needle and a tube.
Kaiser lined the needle up to a vein he can easily make out, and stabbed the sharp metal into him.
"NGHH!" Merrick clenched as a drill of pain invaded his skin. Yuri was WAY better when she did this. The human seems to be purposely brutal.
Immediately, the deep, red liquid surged through the tube, and started pooling into a pouch. Merrick hissed as he can feel the needle extracting his own fluids, "What do you even need from my blood?"
"Oh, you would be surprised by how much even a single drop of blood can tell about you." Kaiser replied. After the pouch was inflated and full, the doctor placed gauze at the needle, and pulled it out. While wrapping a bandage around Merrick's elbow and arm, Merrick noticed a second empty pouch on the little table.
"Wh... Why are there two of those things?" He asked.
"Oh, that's for a little later."
"You'll see." Said the strange doctor.
Kaiser then moved the table to a rather large machine. Merrick gasps as he looks at it from his forced perspective. He shakes as the machine breathes into life, and slowly moves Merrick inward.
"Don't worry," Said Kaiser, "This will not hurt a bit." He promised as he watches the massive machine gradually scan the naked male. "Hmmmmm..." He looks as Merrick's skeleton, muscle mass, and internal organs come onto the screen, bit by bit, "Not much out of the ordinary... Though the throat looks very elaborate..." He says as he makes a note of the shape around Merrick's neck, "The structure of the muscles are completely different compared to a human throat..." His eyes then dart to the head, "And that's quite a different design from a human brain..." He looked over the muscle portion of Merrick's scan, "Altogether, the muscles seem denser than normal, one might say compressed, and yet he doesn't weigh as much as he should, what with the strength his body is showing..."
Once Merrick came out the other end, Kaiser came and took the table around the machine again, "What are you doing now???" Merrick asked out, "That felt strange!"
"Oh, did no one tell you we were taking two scans today?" Kaiser asked softly.
"Agh... P-Please..." Merrick's blood runs colder the more he associates with this human doctor, "Is there... Anyway to release me here?" A tear runs down his cheek, "I miss my Adam... He has no idea where I am, I need to get out of here..."
"Hmhmhm," The man chuckled lowly, "Sadly, I have no authority there. Only Nigel can make THAT call. He decides who or what comes and goes in this place. And it's not like I would let you swim free, even if I could."
"Fresh... Or sea?" Kaiser asked.
"Wh-What??" Merrick panted, "Answer me!"
"What the hay, let's go with seawater." Kaiser said before he walked to the all, and wheeled in a glass cylinder that refracted light in a strange, round way. He hitched a hose to it, pointed it at Merrick, and flipped a switch to the cylinder.
The nearby scientists stopped from their work, and watched as imported seawater poured onto Merrick. He gasped and moaned as the cold, familiar water of the ocean washed over him. Everyone in the lab beamed as this young, blonde man transmuted right before their eyes. His skin glistened as its texture changed dramatically, going from peach colored to a sheet of silver and sapphire blue. The sides of his morphing legs gave to a line of frilly membrane. Kaiser aimed the hose at Merrick's feet, causing them to flatten into a beautiful white fin. His hands became webbed, a fin formed on each forearm. His blonde hair sharpened into a field of pointy fins, his face turned to silver, his ears widened into gills - which immediately closed, as there is not enough water to breathe in.
Merrick's tail grew in length, and so a nearby scientist had to adjust the belt.
From up on the observation glass, above the lab, where students would normally take their notes, Nigel's eyes looked in awe of the aquatic transformation, giving him every ounce of confirmation that he has been right. A lifetime of searching, dedication, and blind faith, he has his reward, right in that lab.
Erin, in the opposite side of the observation section, has both hands covering her mouth as she watches Merrick. She's always heard of the kind of things they look for here in the AOR, but she is seeing a real live merman, able to transform from land to sea, right here.
"There we are," Kaiser said lowly, "I'll bet that feels very nice, after a week of roasting, doesn't it?"
Despite feeling extremely refreshed from the water, Merrick looked upon the doctor, "Why?"
"Why... Why wouldn't you release me?" Merrick moaned, "You said you wouldn't let me go, even if you could. Why?"
"Ah." Kaiser smiled softly, "Well you see, the answer is very simple..." Kaiser then drew out a fresh new needle, "You, Merrick Piscien - if that is indeed your full name - you, are by far, the most magnificent living specimen I have ever had. How can I proudly call myself a scientist if I let an opportunity like you slip away from my fingers?"
"GHHHH!" Merrick gasped as the needle dove into his other arm, and drawing more blood from his body. His tail curled and cringed as another pouch swells.
Once the needle was out, they wrapped waterproof bandages around his arm, and aligned him to the X-Ray machine again. Merrick whimpered as the machine slowly drew him in.
Immediately, he can feel the same electric energy resonating inside of him. This time though, it's hurting. He clenched his eyes shut and moaned harshly. It's like there are electric eels are discharging like crazy, and aiming it at every inch of his body!
"Ahhhh, yes." Kaiser said, "Now we're talking." He said as he looked at the reformed skeleton on the screen. "The bones have reformed in density and mass entirely altogether - his very marrow changed from the presence of water..." The muscles stayed the same, other than a reformation of shape, "A lot more to look at in the membrane and fin department, I see..." Kaiser grinned as he looked at the skull, "Ooh. His head certainly looks interesting..."
"Nnnnnnggggghhhhhh!" Merrick endured the stinging wave of energy running through his body. It feels like lightning is dancing in his body! He wasn't feeling THIS agony when he was in human form! Is his true form vulnerable to this kind of treatment? This machine is moving so slow! Will this coffin of electricity NEVER cease?
Erin watched as the scientists gathered around Merrick. She rushed around the seats over to Nigel, "Mr Quinlan, what are they doing??" She asked with a tinge of worry in her voice.
"They're just going to take a few examinations of him."
"They look like they're about to dissect him!" Erin said, "It's been a week, and he hasn't said anything, isn't this only going to make things worse"
"Look, Miss Connaly," Nigel said as he turned away from the window, "You're still new to this sort of business, I know how you feel," He explained, "But sometimes, when you have a stubborn customer, you need to show tough love. Now eventually, he will have to come to his senses, and realize that we need his help, and he will cooperate when the time is right."
"All I know is that I pass by his cell each day, and his skin is getting burned."
"We're giving him the essentials, he's not going to die."
"How do you know that?!" Erin said, getting a little hysterical, "We don't know how long he can last without water! He's a fish, all that heat probably isn't good for him!"
"Well," Nigel gestured towards the lab, "We're gonna find out, now aren't we?"
He blinked as he came closer, and saw the merman crying as a few scales were carefully plucked from his tail. More interesting is his tears. The younger doctor looked closely, and sees that the fluid coming from Merrick's eyes are... Sparkling. It's like fine glitter twinkling in his tears.
"Pardon me," the scientist asked, "Are these your tears? Are you weeping?"
"It hurts..." Merrick answered, keeping his eyes shut, "My body feels so much pain..."
The scientist grabbed a small beaker, and held it up to the corner of Merrick's eye. As the merman sniffled and whimpered, the scientist collected a meager sample of Merrick's tears from one eye, and was able to gather a few extra drops from his other eye. The scientist managed to collect half a vial of tears - 'You hear all the time that mermaid tears are magical,' The guy thought, 'Lets see if that's true...'
Even after gathering a good amount of samples, the scientist couldn't help but feel sorry for this creature.
"Nnnnnhhhhh..." Merrick sniffled and whimpered in fear as he was helpless from the cluster of scientists looking and examining him up close.
The silver and blue merman is now being chained back into his white cell. Various spots of his body are stinging from the small extractions the white-coated humans took of him. He leered up at Nigel, who is once again standing before him, looking as smug and condescending as ever.
"Now, once more-"
"Let me go!!" Merrick interrupted, "You have my essence now, that should be enough for you!!"
"Hmph," Nigel scoffed, "There's only so much we can learn from flesh and blood," Nigel knelt down to level with Merrick, "Your body tells us nothing of your culture, your heritage, your purpose." Nigel talked in a sympathetic tone, "I am absolutely fascinated by your existence alone. Not only that, I want to LEARN from YOU." He said, "How can you not see the beauty in the exchange in knowledge?"
"I will not allow humans to wage war on my kind!" Merrick retorted. 'Not again... Like the Kingdoms...' He thought.
"You're getting a little dramatic, aren't you?" Nigel asked, "What if we could make things better for merfolk? Did you ever think of that?"
"You humans have NOTHING you can offer that we can want!" Merrick said, "My kind have prospered for eons without contact with humans!" He seethed deeply as he spoke - just looking at this human repulses him to no end, "You will never make me reveal my kind."
"Fine." Nigel said as he stood up, "Then do enjoy another night of constant sunshine."
Once again, the heat lightbulbs flared up. Nigel turned around, and left the white cell, leaving a soaked merman to eventually dry, and feel the heat again.