"I never could understand you Psions." Lord Saladin gazed broadly over the precipice of the wall at the rocky wilderness below. Nearby, Osiris watched the Psion prisoner, restrained by a set of centuries-old iron shackles.
Saladin continued, "You were conquered by the Cabal. And in the face of a superior military force, you did what you had to do to survive. There's no shame in that."
The Psion flared their moist facial flaps and fixed their lone eye on the Iron Lord . Saladin wondered whether they were glaring in defiance, or struggling to breathe without their helmet. He marveled at their repulsiveness.
"But even after Calus fled, and Ghaul was defeated, you still grovel before tyrants like Caiatl. If you rose up, you could taste true independence instead of the patronizing scraps that she offers ." Saladin shook his head in contempt. "Your power is wasted by cowardice."
In the silence that followed, the Iron Lord noticed a curious change in the surrounding atmosphere. The air filled with a sharp frequency—not a sound, but a high-intensity vibration that seemed to emanate from inside his own head, like a blossoming migraine .
Osiris chuckled. "Our friend disagrees."
Saladin snarled and grabbed the Psion by their shackled wrists. He dragged his prisoner to the edge of the wall and held them over the precipice. He was amazed at how light they were without armor, like a scrawny little bird.
Osiris sniffed in distaste and looked back toward the Last City. He doubted Saladin's ham-fisted style of interrogation would work, but the Psion had resisted his own subtler approach.
"Where did they get the Light-dampening tech ? How did they modify the prediction engines ?" Saladin snapped. The Iron Lord held firm as the Psion struggled weakly in his grip. "Where are they? Where's the rest of the cell ?"
The Psion's lone eye fluttered wildly, and Saladin felt a sudden rush of vertigo, as if he was the one with the hundred-meter drop beneath him. The Titan steeled himself.
"We will find them eventually. You can't control that. The only thing you can control now is your own survival. Tell us where they are."
The Psion began to tremble, like an animal shivering in the cold. But they said nothing. Instead, they assaulted the Iron Lord with another wave of vertigo.
The wall felt as if it were flexing and tilting beneath the Titan. He growled through clenched teeth. "Last chance: where are they?"
Suddenly, Osiris was at Saladin's side. The vertigo broke. "Lord Saladin," he urged. "This is a waste of time. You of all people should recognize unrelenting stubbornness when you see it."
"You're right." Saladin regarded the Psion with quiet admiration. "If the roles were reversed, I'd rather die than betray my loyalty."
The Iron Lord gave the Psion a nod of respect, and then effortlessly hefted them over the edge.
In the split second before gravity took hold, Lord Saladin met the Psion's gaze. He suddenly saw himself reflected in the creature's Y-shaped pupil: a ferocious ogre in metal armor, filled with violence. A dull primate, infused with godlike power. A fragile mind cursed with immortality.
Saladin felt the creature's terror. But he also felt the expanse of the Psion's ancestors yawn forth beneath him. He felt their hands reach up to embrace him in a comforting void. He heard the ringing chorus of their timeless harmony call to him. A kaleidoscopic array of emotion surged through his heart, such that he'd never known as a Human.
For that fleeting moment, he was at peace.
Then the Psion was gone, and Saladin was alone with Osiris once more.
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