Swan & Tern are called in to assist with the Accord’s latest capture. Non-con mind control, enslavement, identity modification/erasure, light physical violence, dystopian themes. ~1800 words.
"What is an 'exotic', anyway?" Swan asked quietly, leaning over to Tern. "What do we do with it?"
Tern raised her hand to knock on the door, pausing for a second. "You'll see. Keep quiet, follow my lead." She knocked twice on the door, then stood, waiting for permission to enter.
"Come in." Said a voice from the other side of the door, which unlocked with a click.
Tern gently pushed the door open, stepping inside, giving Swan room to follow. "You called, Ma'am?"
Swan followed, gently closing the door behind her, before turning to stand straight ahead. Before her was the spacious office of an Agent -- Officer, Second Class, at least. And to think she could have one day had an office like this, if she didn't end up an Assistant...
"Yes, I did. Glad you weren't caught up in anything else." The Agent said, leaning over her desk. "I don't usually remember individual Assistants, but I do know that you know what to do with one of these."
Swan's eyes followed the Agent's motioning to a bent over creature sitting in a chair in front of the desk. Mainly white and covered in fur, it wasn't like anything she'd seen before. Accord core planets used to teem with wildlife, as she'd once seen in a museum as a hatchling, but she didn't know they could get that big, nor be bipedal like an Avian. What was it doing in an Agent's office?
"Dragged in yesterday by a routine system patrol. Speaking of dragged in, who's that with you?"
Swan went to open her beak to object to the descriptor, but Tern spoke up first. "C29, Swan, a new Class C Assistant on this floor. I'm responsible for her training."
The Agent nodded, picking up a folder and holding it out over the desk. "Well, C29, I'll have you fill out this paperwork, then. We're going to have a lot of them to process, soon enough."
Swan stepped forward to take the paperwork, but jumped back with an undignified squawk as the furry creature lifted its head up and growled at her. "Agh! What is that?"
"Shut up, mutt." The Agent said, swatting it over the head with the folder, causing it to lower its head back down and quieten. "She's one of your new coworkers, soon."
"She's... an Assistant?" Swan asked, cautiously moving forward again to take the paperwork. "She's not... an Avian, though."
"That matters little. We have exotic Assistants join the ranks every so often." The Agent stood from her desk, straightening out her black and red uniform. "This one here... I've taken a liking to. I'm sure it'll make a good addition to the floor, once we clean it up." She grabbed the creature by the back of the neck, hauling it out of the chair and turning it to Swan and Tern.
The to-be Assistant looked quite worse for wear, with silver tape holding its muzzle shut and its arms together behind its back, spacesuit-esque uniform scuffed up and ripped, fur dirtied, and a large bruise underneath its left eye. It didn't look up to the Assistants, nor even try and shift from the grip of the Agent.
"Take her down to the lower levels. Room 21C, you know the one. Strap it up and leave it, and I'll be there when I've finished my half of the paperwork." The Agent pushed it forward, the creature stumbling for its balance. She cleared her throat, and began to speak in Common, a language she knew the creature could understand. "You be a good dog, now. Or wolf, or whatever you are. We'll figure it out later, when you're an Assistant like these two, and your memories are on my datapad. You know what to do, Tern."
The wolf growled under its breath, but quickly silenced itself when Tern stepped forward and grabbed it by the neck. "Thank you, Feathers of Scarlet. I'll do my best."
Swan's eyes went as wide as the wolf's when Tern's grip tightened to block the capture's breath. "Tern! W-why are you doing that to it?!"
"Because Feathers of Scarlet has ordered me to." Tern said, releasing her grip, leaving the wolf gasping for air. "Non-Avian Assistants are to Assistants like we are to free Avians, and I've been ordered to treat it as such. This isn't the first one I've taken down to the lower levels, Swan."
The wolf whined through the tape, eyes darting between the two grey-dressed Avians. It obviously didn't like being choked, nor the implication that it was going to become one of them... "Rrrrr- glk!"
"Tern, stop it!"
"Oh, you must really be new, aren't you?" The Agent said, stepping behind Swan. "That programming in your head -- that you're below the free, that you're not to harm them, that even touching them isn't your place... that doesn't include these. You're still an Avian. You're still worth more than whatever the galactic winds blow us, such as this one here."
Swan shifted uncomfortably at Scarlet's explanation. "Well... yes... I guess that's true... but surely it's unbecoming of an Avian to be so... brutal?"
"It is." Feathers of Scarlet replied. "But, look at the claws of it. Look at its warship. The other species come with ill intentions, so why should we be any better?"
The wolf growled at the description of it, staring at the picture prints of its ship on the Agent's desk. A small, unarmed research craft, with just a single rifle on board.
Swan, however, didn't notice the pictures, and nodded along. "I... okay. If it's neccessary."
"It is, don't worry. The Accord is nothing if not justified in its treatment of ones like this."
Tern kept her grip steady, one hand around the back of the wolf's neck, the other holding its taped up wrists. Swan opened the door for the pair, and then the elevator just down the hall.
"Thank you, Swan. It's usually much more difficult getting these ones down without a free hand."
"Uh, you're welcome." Swan replied, following Tern and the wolf into the elevator. "Do... do I need to be worried about this... dog?"
"Of course not. It won't dare do a wrong step as long as I've got my talons around its throat."
It growled for a moment -- and just a moment, before Tern tightened her grip and talons pressed against its jugular.
"Swipe your access card, enter floor B23."
"Okay, uh..." Swan patted along her sides until she found the small pocket where her ID card lived, the only detail on the grey dress apart from the barcode by her thigh. She took it out and pressed it against the sensor under the elevator panel, which then allowed her to type in what was requested. "Uh, Tern?"
"Yes, Swan?" Tern replied, loosening her grip around the wolf's throat, causing it to gasp and pant, trying to get some of its air back.
"You're acting... strange." Swan said, looking up and down at the more senior Assistant worriedly. "I didn't think we were allowed to be this... assertive."
"Feathers of Scarlet and I have an agreement." Tern still dutifully referred to the Agent by her full name, as Assistants were ordered to do. "She lets me be a bit rough with the exotics, and I do the paperwork for her. She's got more important things to be doing when an exotic comes in."
"Apparently, I'm doing this one..." Swan said, holding up the thick folder of documents. "And what does she mean, 'plenty more'?"
"Well... and you shouldn't be hearing this, dog..." -- Tern said, purposefully switching the conversation to Galactic Common instead of Avian -- "...but after the Cygnet Offensive finished, we've got a lot of battleships just kind of sitting around. And when was the last time you remember us not being in a war?"
Swan paused for a moment. "I... I don't know."
"Exactly." Tern replied, continuing in Common. "And this one here looks like it might give us a good candidate. So, it's better we take care of the paperwork, and let Feathers of Scarlet get to the dirty work."
The wolf's eyes went wide and it squirmed in Tern's grip upon hearing what it might be used for, but settled down again once it felt the still-frightening pressing down of talons.
"Here we are." Tern said as the elevator stopped and the doors slid open to reveal a dimly lit concrete hallway. "Move."
Swan winced as the exotic was shoved out of the elevator and onto its knees on the concrete, causing it to make a muffled yelp through the tape. Tern grabbed it by the scruff and forced it back onto its feet, giving it another push.
"I said move." Tern reiterated in Common, the unnatural line of speech sticking in Swan's mind.
"Tighten the straps, would you?"
Swan pulled on them harder, shifting between each to make sure that the wolf was held down securely. Straps over the wrists, the elbows, ankles, knees, neck, and lower chest all kept it still, barely able to shift about in the padded metal chair. "I... I think that's good enough?"
Tern grabbed the end of the chest strap and pulled it even tighter, eliciting a yelp from the now-winded captive. "Should be. Not that it could get out of the room, if it did escape." She lifted her hand up to its muzzle and grabbed a loose piece of the silver tape to rip the improvised gag free. "Comfy, there?" She asked, in Common. The wolf only growled back. "Eh, good enough."
Swan tilted her head to the side a little and stepped closer to the captive, curious. "What's your name?" She asked, in uneasy Common -- a language she knew, although not very well.
"I've been told that I won't have one, soon enough." It replied, with a low growl. "Just like you, she said."
Swan nodded a little, suddenly quite concious of her recent re-assignment, but still curious. "Yes, well... what is it right now?"
"░▒░░▓." The wolf replied, much to Swan's confusion.
"I'm... sorry. What did you say?" She replied, trying to decipher the inaudible garbage that seemed to be said to her.
"Don't waste your breath, dog." Tern said, eliciting another growl from it. "It's an Assistant now, even if it hasn't had a chip installed yet. Assistants don't have names, and whatever it thinks it is called now is purged information. That is... our chips remove it."
Swan nodded in an uncomfortable understanding. "I... see."
"We shouldn't be talking with it, anyway, we've got our own jobs to do." Tern turned to the captive, giving it a little smile. "I guess we'll see you up on our floor in a couple of days..."
The wolf was unable to think of anything that wouldn't get its throat grabbed again, so just glared in response as Tern left the interrogation room.
Swan hesitated following, looking over the exotic in the interrogation chair, lit in the room by just the single spotlight above it. "I... I'm sorry." She said, holding the wolf's folder to her chest.
With that, she left, closing the door quietly behind her. The wolf just sat there, bound tightly in place, unable to do anything but listen as the sound of footsteps faded into silence.