Chapter 38: Final Tactic
Daniel inserted his key to unlock the apartment and opened the door, with his other hand carrying in several bulging bags of groceries. Once the door is opened, he takes the other bags to balance out the weight. He walks into the kitchenette, when he spots Jacob on the couch.
"Oh hey, Jakey!" He said, "This is rare, you home before me. What, is the lab quarantined or something?" He scratched his brown hair from an itch before picking up the Double Stuf Oreos from one of the bags.
"I'm glad you're home," Daniel continued as he put the bags onto the kitchen counter, "I swear, even on my days off, I'm always busy. Went to the dentist, I barely made it to the blood center on time, went by Payless for some new shoes, and a bunch of other stuff you're probably not gonna remember," He chattered as he quickly tucked the groceries away, "So I picked up your favorite for dinner!"
"That's great..." Jacob said, just starring at the floor.
"Babe? ... You're awfully quiet tonight." Daniel said as he got a couple of pans out.
"I'm fine, I'm just..." He looked up briefly before averting his eyes and blinking several times, "I'm just uh... I'm not very hungry right now..."
Daniel looked at Jacob. Something's not right - he's usually talking Daniel's ear off about scientific terms that will always fly right over his head, "Jacob, is something the matter?" Daniel walked around the kitchenette counter.
"No, Danny..." Jacob got up from the couch, taking off his glasses, "I'm said I'm fine."
"Jacob, wait, what's going on??" Daniel strode closely behind.
"Just lemme alone, please!" Jacob's voice had thickened. Daniel looked around, and saw Jacob pressing his sleeved arm over his eyes.
"Jacob, what's the matter?!" He followed him to the bedroom, "Jacob, talk to me, is it something I did??"
"No, no!" Jacob sobbed as he tried to hide his face away from his lover.
"Jacob, look at me!" Daniel moved in front of him, "Look at me, Jacob, and talk to me!" Instead, Jacob put his face against Daniel's chest. He sobbed while Daniel put his arms around him. "Jakey... What happened?"
"He... The merman, he... He injured Mr Quinlan and..." He sobbed as he clung to his boyfriend, "He just... I can still hear him scream... He screamed only once, but it's in my head..."
"Jacob..." Daniel felt his chest pound deeply, "What happened?" He coddled his shorter lover as he cried, and looked out the dusky window. He blinked strangely as a seagull flew to the edge of the window, with a small, yellow and white flower tied around one of its legs.
Merrick shook as he once again felt the harsh light bare down on him, sitting with his face to his raw red knees, and his arms around his legs.
"... Humans..." Every finger on both of his hands is individually wrapped in bandages, as was his knuckles and the spaces between his fingers. There are a handful of small red patches randomly on his head. "Humans... Are liars..." His forearms are heavily bandaged, as was the majority of his torso. "Humans... Are beasts of conquest..." His ears are chipped, and several cuts are placed on and around the cartilage. "Humans... Want everything..." Dark gashes stretch on his feet, besides that all of his toenails are missing, "Humans... Poison everything they touch..." The red blotches on his skin sear with pain every time he moves. "Humans... Are monsters..." His teeth clenched as he hissed in hatred, "Monsters... Deserve to die..."
"M-Merrick?" Came a frightened voice. His eyes darted up, and spotted Erin, holding a bucket of ice water, and a paper bag full of food. He didn't even notice the lights had went off. Those dark blue eyes, once so vibrant with joy, now are as cold as the crushing depths of a trench. "H-Hi..."
"..." Erin shook from head to foot as a low growl could be heard from the merman, "... What are you doing here..." Merrick said in a low, threatening voice.
"I... I came to check on you..."
"What are you doing here..." Merrick repeated.
"I... I just said... I came to che-"
"WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?!" Merrick shrieked as he let his legs down - which also have many bandages wrapped on them. Erin jumped from his sudden outburst - she gasped as she accidentally dropped the bucket, and spilled the water all over the floor. Erin kept her distance, despite the water spreading out from the collapsed bucket, and reaching Merrick's feet. The water transformed his feet into a fin in less than a second. Erin clasped a hand to her mouth as the white fin is now severely ravaged and flagged, almost half of it is gone.
"I-I just..." Erin held back her sobs, "I came to, you know... Give you some water and-"
"YOU LIAR!!!" Merrick attempted to tackle her, but the hot chains snapped straight, and held him back. He sat back down, leering at her with sheer hatred.
"Merrick, no..." She stayed in the corner as Merrick seethed and panted, "I'm not lying, I care about you! Please, calm down."
"CARE about me?!" Merrick yelled, "You were an ally! You saved me from dehydrating, YOU WERE MY FRIEND!" Sparkling tears arose from his eyes as his throat purred a deep growl, "You brought me here, and you helped me!!" Erin's lip quivered as he shouted, "I trusted you, and YOU BETRAYED ME!!" He raged as he tried to jump on her again, but the chains yanked his arms back.
"Please, stop, Merrick!" She cried out. Merrick eased on the chains, but remained standing, "I swear, I didn't betray you..."
"Don't you DARE lie to me, HUMAN!!" Merrick shouted. "Nigel... That monster, NIGEL!!" He seethed as his darkened, blood-shot eyes glared at Erin, "He called me Merrick THE Piscien. He KNEW what I AM!" His chest puffed and sank as he ranted, "He thought Piscien was my name. But now he knows Piscien is my species!" He panted and growled more as Erin quivered. "You told him EVERYTHING I told you! He would NEVER get me to talk, so you came in as his spy!"
"I-I didn't tell him!" Erin lied, "I swear, he must have heard it on the surveillance cameras in here, I-"
"And you KNEW!" Merrick retorted, "All those times we talked, when you visited me, you KNEW I was watched AND heard by your human contraptions! And you didn't bother to stop me!!" Erin sobbed as he ranted at her, "You're a filthy traitor either way, and you know it!"
"Merrick, please listen to me..." Erin said, trying to keep her voice steady through the emotion, "I only did it because you were dying..." She swallowed, "It was the only way to get you into that tank-"
"I don't care!!" Merrick said as tears rushed on his face, "I would rather die than have my kind revealed like this!!" He cried in wrath and agony as he shook his head, "All those times... You made me forget my pain, and for what... Conning me of information..."
"Merrick... Listen to yourself..." Erin replied, "You'd rather die than live to see your Ad-"
"SILENCE!!" Merrick shrieked as he pointed at her, "Don't you DARE talk about him!" He gestured to himself, "How can I ever see him again now?! He can't see me like this!! I can't let him know what I've become! You and your Nigel took EVERYTHING away from me!! And for WHAT?!" He demanded, "Because I refuse the poison of humanity to plague the deeper into the sea?! To forever taint my kind?! To sell out merfolk?!"
"Merrick..." Erin wiped her eyes, "I'm sorry."
"Gheh..." Merrick lowered his arms, and seemed to calm himself down, "I can't even trust a single sound from your mouth.
"Merrick, please understand!" Erin said, "I was only trying to help you... You were dying, I only wanted your pain to stop as soon as I could! I hated seeing you suffer like that! Like THIS!"
Merrick gave a dark smirk, "Heh... If you hate seeing me like this..." His arms held out beside him, "... Why don't you kill me?" Erin's mouth gapped as he leered at her like a taunting demon.
"Go on..." Merrick said, "Release me... End my pain... Go on and kill me..."
"You humans are all avaricious savages, aren't you? So spare me of my agony and end my life. That should be easy for you."
"Go on, Human, and kill me." He gritted his teeth, "Kill me..." He lurched forth, and straightened the chains again, "KILL MEEEEEEE!!!" Erin shook and sobbed as he held himself firm in his tracks. Erin couldn't talk anymore, as the lump in her throat proved too much of an obstacle. Merrick eased himself again, and settled his stance. "I didn't think so..." He rose a hand up, and pointed a bandaged finger at her. "Erin... You're WEAK!" The words cut into her like a knife, "That's all you are. You're a weak savage..."
The merman sat down on the floor again, his head swarming with anger and hate, "Leave..." Too afraid to go near the bucket, Erin made her way to the door of the cell, and left.
Erin drove home quietly this night. Taking deep breaths the whole time as she drove, she didn't even touch the radio, which is always playing whenever she's in the car.
'That's all you are...' Merrick's words still ring in her head, 'You're a WEAK savage...' She sniffled as those harsh, but true words resonated in her mind, 'You're WEAK! You're a WEAK savage!' She sobbed as her car pulled into her driveway 'That's all you are... You're WEAK!'
Over and over again, as she walked up to her doorstep, Merrick's voice bounced inside her head. She inserted the key into her lock, but didn't turn it. Erin pressed her forehead to her door. She gasped and sobbed as guilt and sorrow racked her blood with cold fire.
"... He's right..." She whimpered as she shook her head, "I'm weak, I'm so weak..." Erin wept as she let go of her keys, and sank to the Welcome Mat, "I'm sorry, Merrick..." She muttered, "I'm sorry..."
"Eeeeegya, eeegya!" She turned, sniffling, and spotted a white creature on the top of her car. She stood herself up, and took a better look. Illuminated by the porchlight, is a seagull. While with grey feathers, the bird called as it tilted its head. Erin stepped closer to it as it turned its head to study her where it stood. Erin noticed a small yellow flower on its right leg - the way the green stem looks, it's like it's grown around its leg.
"Huh?" Erin looked at the seagull strangely, and took just one step toward the bird.
"EEEEEEYA! EEYA!" The gull screeched as it flapped its wings, and tackled Erin.
"Ahhhh!" Erin screamed as she felt the bird peck her head, only once though, and flew off. She watched as the seagull flapped higher into the dark sky, and disappeared into the infinite blackness.
---Early The Next Morning---
Nigel poured his drink into the small shot glass, as he sits alone in the empty cafeteria. His office always feels too small for reflection, or getting drunk. No one dares enter the cafeteria at this time or morning, regardless if he's coming in or not - not even the cooks report in until a few hours from now.
Nigel chugged the small portion of drink into this throat, and shook his head. He growled as he felt the thick gauze on his face, the tentacle's venom still stings through the pain killers and alcohol.
A folder full of pages flew right next to him, and scattered all over where it hit the cold burners. Nigel didn't even flinch from the sudden intrusion of noise, or even turned to see who had thrown the file.
"I hope you're satisfied, Nigel." Came a firm female voice.
"Why? Is he finally talking again?" Nigel asked as he took another drink. Erin spun Nigel around, and looked into his non-changing eyes.
"Congratulations, Mr Quinlan." Erin spat out.
"For what, may I ask?" Nigel responded, unfazed by his assistance's aggressive behavior.
"You turned a beautiful creature into a psychotic monster!"
"Huh. That's new." Nigel picked up the bottle of liquor, but Erin snatched it right out of his hand.
"Would you listen to me?!" She said, "You've broken him, alright?!" She yelled, "You've driven him insane, do you get that?! Last night, I went to water him, and he demanded that I KILL him!!"
"So did you? Kaiser has been getting on my back about a new cadaver." Nigel turned back to the table, picked up his shot glass, but again, Erin snatched it up, and sent it flying, and shattering to the wall.
"Do you even CARE?!" Erin shouted, "Do you realize what you've done?! How is THIS any good for discovering the ocean?! How is torturing a defenseless merman beneficial for mankind?! How does you acting like a bully get you any progress?!"
"Heh," Nigel sneered as he glanced at Erin, "Isn't it a little late to grow a conscience, Miss Conally?" He said, "After all, weren't you the one who reported on every single detail from your little visits to him?"
"Don't you pass that on me now. You forced me on that, Nigel." Erin said.
"Force you?" Nigel said as he got up from his chair, and faced Erin, "I don't believe I gave you any direct orders on extracting information from our little merman. You did that all on your own. That's on your head, not mine."
"Don't play games with me, Nigel." Erin retorted as she shook her head, "We all know what kind of man you are. We all know what kind of things you do to people who show even the slightest sign of descent in the ranks, or try to quit and leave this place. I did what I could to keep him from dying, and you know it."
"Heh. Yeah..." Nigel nodded, "Don't I know it..." He moved over to the nearest chair. In a quick move, he picked it right up, and flung it right into the kitchen! Erin gasped and watched as the old man flipped over a large table, and then threw a napkin holder clear across the room! "I REALLY messed things up, didn't I?!" He exclaimed before picking up the liquor, and sent it crashing to the floor!
"Nigel, stop!" Erin shouted, "You're killing yourself!" Right after he threw another chair and toppled a table, Nigel fell to his knees, and began gagging and coughing violently. Putting a hand to his mouth, Nigel hacked his lungs out, clenching his eyes as he planted his hand onto the floor. Blood dripped from his hand and fingers as he writhed on the floor. After five solid minutes of coughing, Nigel finally settled down. Erin clamped a napkin holder down next to him, and he grabbed several of them to clean up.
"Nigel... This can't go on." She said, "Do the right thing for once."
"... I can't..." Nigel wheezed as he wiped his mouth, "Not when I'm so close..."
"Close to WHAT, Nigel?!" Erin shouted, "Look at you! You're rolling in your own blood while a butchered up merman is spiraling in madness, alone and royally pissed off!" She shook her head as Nigel stood himself up on his feet, "Nigel... This has gone far enough." Nigel panted as he wiped off the last of the blood and mucus.
"You're right..." He said, "I've gone as far as I can with that damn fish." He glanced with icy cold eyes at his associate, "So..."
"Are you letting him go?"
"Maybe... If all goes well..." Nigel said. Erin threw up her harms and huffed exasperatedly, "Now it seems... I have to bring in my special operative."
---A Couple of Hours Later---
"Are you INSANE, Mr Quinlan?!" Erin exclaimed as they walked down the halls, "Do you understand how... How..."
"How, WHAT, Miss Conally?" Nigel said.
"How extremely close you're getting to being court-marshaled now?!" Erin explained, "How long were you planning on keeping this quiet?!"
"For as long as I need, and it looks like the time is now." Nigel said as he over looked a relatively thin profile.
"And how do I not know about this?!" She said, "I am your PERSONAL ASSISTANT!"
"I believed this was on a Need-To-Know Basis. And you are easily influenced by your emotions. I couldn't have you interfering with matters you don't fully understand."
"Nigel, this goes against EVERYTHING that is legal in humanity rights, do you hear me?! Do you UNDERSTAND that?!" Erin demanded.
"Miss Conally, I control the Agency of Oceanic Research - a branch of U.S. Government dedicated to furthering the knowledge and development of the world's ocean, by ANY means necessary."
"You had an American Citizen abducted and detained for interrogation, Nigel!" Erin spat out, "How do you expect to get away with this?!"
"In the name of discovery, Miss Conally. So long as I keep my limits behind the line, I am within my power to do all that I see fit. He was involved with a highly intelligent creature, and so is a very important resource here," Nigel replied as they came to the door of one of the containment cells, "And before we go any further, it's 'Mr Quinlan' to you." Erin opened her mouth, but Nigel silenced her, "I told you before, Miss Conally. Know your place. You are teetering on the edge of losing everything you have." He pointed a finger at her, "I have come TOO far to give up on everything now."
"Mr Quinlan..." Erin shook her head, "How can you look yourself in the mirror, and approve of this?" Nigel stared right into her eyes.
"When you looked Death in the face as I have, suddenly your own reflection becomes the most terrifying thing you can ever imagine."
After a short pause, the Keith, who had been with them the whole time, inserted a key into the door's lock, and opened the door. Nigel walked in, and looked at the young man with dark hair, a thick patch of fuzz on his face, and wearing a white jumpsuit, lying on his back on the bed of his cell, "Good morning, Mr Bryant."
Adam turned his head, and looked at the old man standing at the doorway, with his face half bandaged. He moved his legs over on the bed, and sat up, looking rather irritable, "Hi... Who are you?" He asked.
"My name is Nigel Quinlan, and I am the head of the Agency of Oceanic Research."
"So you're the boss here?" The young man asked, standing up.
"Yes, that is correct."
"Ok, great." Adam crossed his arms, "So is someone finally going to tell me why I've been laying around, doing nothing all month long?"
"Yes," Nigel smiled softly, "We are ready for you now."