Marking it Down to Learning + Chapter 14 (cont)
Seven Deadly Sinners

After all the sumptuous splendor of the room, the man was a bit of a disappointment. He was probably in his early fifties, and rather largely built. He wasn't exactly fat, but he was solid. Bulky, Quatre decided. His hair was still dark, and his face mostly unlined. Like Adrastus, he looked like an everyday businessman.

But most businessmen didn't greet their clients sitting in thrones, surrounded by veritable harems, their fingers absently toying with the bare breasts of the naked woman curled in their laps.

"Mr. Winner," he nodded politely, smiling at Quatre. "Welcome."

"Polynices, I presume," Quatre answered in the same well-mannered tone, ignoring the bodies of the naked men and woman as he approached the seated man. "A pleasure."

The man - the leader of the Order! - smiled widely. "The pleasure is all mine, Mr. Winner," he corrected, and his voice held a note of sincerity. He abruptly shoved the woman off of his lap, ignoring her small startled cry as she fell to the ground. He stood and stepped over her with complete aplomb, reaching out a hand in greeting.

Quatre steeled himself, and broadened his smile as he shook Polynices' hand with all appearances of sincerity and enthusiasm.

"You're our first client ever to understand the significance of our names," the older man complimented. "Most just complain because they can't remember how to pronounce them." He laughed, a low, superior sound, inviting Quatre to join him in mocking those vastly inferior others.

Quatre laughed with him, as he was expected to do, not showing any reaction to discovering that the other man already knew of the conversation in the reception room. It was only to be expected. Either he had it bugged, or he'd received a call from one of the others while he and Adrastus had been on route to this room. "I must admit, I was thinking that it must get a little tiring to pronounce those names all the time," Quatre revealed, flashing the man his most charming smile.

Polynices chuckled again. "You get used to it," he assured the other man. "So... " he said, clapping Quatre on the back as he surveyed the room. "What do you think?"

"What do I think?" Quatre repeated, a bit surprised at the question.

"Of my ‘inner sanctum' here, so to speak," Polynices continued jovially.

Quatre stared at him, having a bit of trouble reconciling this man with the identity that he knew he possessed as the leader of the largest criminal organization Quatre had ever come against. He had a feeling that in a moment the man was going to start to talk about his weekend plans to go trout fishing in the country, or drag him out and show him his restored sports car that he spent the evenings rubbing with a diaper.

He was just too normal. This entire situation was bizarre.

"It's very... elaborate," Quatre answered politely, looking around appreciatively.

Polynices chuckled again, the sound deep. "It's god-damned tacky, that's what you're thinking, aren't you?" he pressed. Quatre looked at him, alarmed, but the man didn't look angry. "It is," he confessed cheerfully. "It's a room for play, for fantasy." He grinned widely. "You can do that when you're in my position. What the hell's the use of having everything if you can't do what you want once you have it?"

Quatre grinned, nodding, acknowledging the man's point.

"But you don't always do what you want, do you Mr. Winner?" Polynices asked abruptly, and Quatre's eyes jerked back toward the other man, senses alerted by the suddenly intense note in the other man's voice.

"I mean to say, you have no place in your home like this, do you?" he asked, gesturing at the room around them. "To all intents and purposes, you lead a nice, law-abiding, normal life."

"Not precisely normal," Quatre murmured.

"No... your living arrangements are somewhat... unorthodox, aren't they?" Polynices mused. "But still... there's never been any indication that you're anything but an upright young businessman."

"Exactly," Quatre smiled. "As you guessed, it's sometimes a bit wearying to maintain that... but the payout is well worth it."

"I suppose," Polynices reflected slowly, "that that's the part I don't quite understand. It appears to me, Mr. Winner," he said, "that you currently work two very demanding jobs - one as the director of your company, and one as a servant for peace," he continued mockingly. Quatre grinned, allowing his mouth to twist a bit derisively, acknowledging the mockery. "What exactly do you get out of all that work?"

"Money. Connections. Information. And I get it all without any trace of suspicion," Quatre answered promptly.

Polynices frowned at him. "I'm afraid I don't quite understand, Mr. Winner," he confessed.

Quatre smiled. "My company is enormously successful," he said, without any trace of false modesty. "One reason being that people are so willing to work with us because of our reputation of ethical behavior and complete compliance with the laws of government and humanity," he told the other man, chuckling. "Through my company, and through my job with the Preventers, I meet an enormous amount of people, some of whom are rather... unsavory. But very helpful. And since I work with a legal force, I know all the "criminals" - where they are, what they're doing... and how to find them if I think they'd be entertaining," he added, smiling meaningfully at Polynices. "Best of all," he finished, spreading his arms wide, "my hands are completely clean. Noone suspects me of anything, so all my business dealings go on with no interference, because noone thinks it necessary to interfere." He reached out and clapped Polynices on the back as the man had touched him earlier. "The best of all worlds, you might say."

Polynices stared at him, and a grudging smile crept across his face. "It does sound that way, indeed," he acknowledged. The smile faded away as he stared intently at Quatre. The blond kept the insouciant, dandyish expression in his eyes, but carefully channeled a feeling of hard determination toward the other man. It wasn't difficult. He honestly felt that emotion - felt a steely resolution that he would destroy this man and all that he stood for. Of course, Polynices wouldn't know it. He'd believe he was sensing that aura from Quatre himself, and interpret it as the same drive he felt himself to get his own way, to satisfy his own desires at any cost.

Polynices nodded slowly. "You have brought us... information about the Preventers?" he asked slowly.

Quatre smiled. "I am to have access to your... facilities?" he countered.

Polynices smiled. "You've given us a good deal of money, Mr. Winner," he acceded. "But you've not given us everything we've asked for."

"And I've very much enjoyed my lovely tour of your building," Quatre replied politely. "And the conversation with your associates was beyond charming. But I've not gotten all that I've been promised either."

Surprisingly, the other man chuckled. "I find that I rather like you, Mr. Winner," he mused unexpectedly. "You remind me of myself, when I was your age."

Quatre smiled, determinedly forcing away the surge of fear and despair the other man's word engendered within him. "I'm flattered," he assured the other man calmly.

"Give me that information on the Preventers," Polynices bargained, "and I assure you that you will not leave unsatisfied."

Quatre rose a brow at the vagueness of the words, which could actually be rather easily perceived as a threat. Polynices smiled blandly, and they stared at each other for a moment, locked in a silent battle of wills.

But they were in a locked room, in the middle of a huge installation controlled by the other man's people. There was never any doubt as to who would win.

The important part was to go through the motions.

Quatre lifted his wrist, and smiled at Polynices as he pulled out the small knob on the side of his wristwatch that was used to adjust the hours, and wind the watch. But he kept on pulling on it, gripping the small piece of metal firmly as he pulled it slowly out of the watch. He held it out, and Polynices hesitantly stretched out his hand.

"It's all here," Quatre told him pleasantly. "All the information we have on you, including the escapees, personnel lists of agents working on the case, strategy reports, contact information... everything."

Part of Quatre shuddered as he gave the small microchip over to the other man. Most of the information on it was false - carefully created lies crafted specifically to be fed to the Order. The real information was stored on a single computer that had never been hooked up to a network, and Heero Yuy would die an excruciating death before he ever surrendered it to anyone.

But some of the information was real. He was revealing Dacia and Michel to this man who had imprisoned them, and who now would cheerfully torture them to death if he could ever get his hands on them. And the personnel - of course they all knew that their names were being surrendered, they were all on their guard... but still. It was horrible.

He felt that he was betraying his allies.

It was all part of the mission.

But he still felt that way.

Polynices was staring with fascination at the tiny microchip in his palm. "We had you scanned when you came in," he marveled. "We detected nothing on you."

Quatre smiled pleasantly. "Things aren't always what they seem, Polynices," he said mildly.

The older man looked up at him speculatively. "I suppose not, Mr. Winner," he acknowledged, a grudging respect in his tone. "Now," he said brusquely, motioning over one of the young men and handing the microchip to him, "I must fulfill my end of the bargain." He shooed the young man away, and turned to Quatre, rubbing his hands and smiling. Quatre felt the sick sense of unreality again - he looked for all the world like he was going to try to sell him a used car.

"You've indicated that your... tastes are a bit varied," Polynices smiled. "So for your first... visit, we've arranged a bit of a treat."

Quatre smiled, trying to assume an expression of lewdness. This, he had decided, was to be this Quatre's weakness. He was a businessman, ruthless, clever, controlled. His Achilles heel was to be sex.

His Achilles heel. That was the wrong war, wasn't it? The Seven had gone against Thebes, not Troy. Achilles' foe had been Hector, not Polynices or Etocles.

Well, he was fighting a different battle than the Seven thought they were embroiled in. Adrastus and Polynices' pitiful force would find that might of Agamemnon and Meneleus was to be brought to bear against them, and he would sack the filthy empire they had created. There was a Trojan Horse in their midst now, and he would destroy them.

And the Quatre Winner he had created for their benefit had the weakness he had given him, but he, Quatre Raberba Winner, had no such weakness. All he had was determination, and resolve, and anger, and he would crush them all.

"When you leave today, Adrastus will explain how our operation generally runs," Polynices was continuing. "But today... You can avail yourself of my private rooms," he offered generously, "and a selection that I've personally arranged for you."

"That's very kind of you," Quatre replied, smiling more widely. He had to start getting into the act. He had to think like the Quatre this man believed he was, or he was dead, and they were all lost. All these people he was trying to save... even the ones he had to hurt to protect.

He had to let it overtake him... he had to make himself feel the disgusting lust, the perverted need that Polynices believed drove him. Quatre took a deep breath, and forced himself to think of warm bodies spread open beneath him, of his cock, pulsing with need, pounding into hot, welcoming tightness...

To his relief - and his disgust - he felt himself begin to grow hard.

"I thought you would like to use this area," Polynices went on, indicating the cushioned area.

The sick Quatre grinned, hardening more at the thought of romping on those cushions.

"Here's the first selection of the day," Polynices said, snapping his fingers. Quatre turned around, smiling, to see who he'd be with.

He wanted to scream, to cry, to leave.

He couldn't, though. He had to go through with it. He had to stand there as helpless people were paraded before him, forced to service him against their own free will, and he had to enjoy it. He had to take them and use them and hurt them.

There was no other way.

He had to do it.

But his careful resolve all fell apart when he saw the first person that he was supposed to use.

He couldn't.

Not for the Preventers, not for the others, not for his own life.

He would die first.

He stared down into the wide dark eyes of the child he'd seen cringing behind the young woman when he entered, and he knew that if they played this card, he would lose.

"I've been forcing myself to resist this delectable treat all week," Polynices grinned. "I wanted something special for you to enjoy your first day here. Take her over," he urged. "I'll prepare your next partner... "

"Pardon me," Quatre interrupted, a bit shaken out of his despair by this latest revelation. "What do you mean, you'll prepare for me... Surely you don't think that I'm going to do this with an audience... "

"Mr. Winner." Polynices voice was suddenly cold, and all the suspicion that Quatre had vaguely sensed from the man throughout the interview was at once apparent in his voice. "Your answers to my questions have all been very logical, and you have checked out in our investigations of you - and we have looked most thoroughly. That in itself makes me very uncomfortable," he admitted coldly. "You are a puzzle, and I have learned that puzzles are dangerous. But you are a very wealthy puzzle, and one who could be quite an asset to me if you play out correctly. But I need to ensure that you are what you seem. I will be here, and watch you. I will not tolerate the possibility that you are a fraud or an informer. The Quatre Winner the world knows could never forcibly take unwilling bodies. It would be repugnant to him." He smiled widely. "But the Quatre Winner you claim to be supposedly glories in it. So, I will observe," he finished firmly. "If you are who you claim to be, that should be no problem," he challenged.

Quatre scowled. "I was not expecting to have to perform for you," he snapped. "Surely, if that's what you like you have plenty of people who can... "

"Please, Mr. Winner. Don't flatter yourself," Polynices advised coldly. "It's not my desire for your body, attractive though it is, that makes me insist on remaining present. And you know that." His eyes flickered appreciatively down Quatre's body, then lifted to stare directly at the younger man. "Either you can do this, or you can not," he said evenly. "Either way... we have our answer."

Quatre sighed in exasperation, feeling anger pump through his body. He grabbed onto the anger, held it, allowed it to build and to fill him. It would help him to do what he had to do now.

"Fine," he grumbled, sounding like the rich, petulant man he wanted to be seen to be. "But I don't want a child."

Polynices' eyes hardened. "Why can't you take a child?" he asked dangerously.

"I can take a child," Quatre snapped back. "I don't want to. I don't like it."

"Why not?" Polynices purred smoothly. "Don't tell me that you have delicate sensibilities... "

"Delicate sensibilities my ass," Quatre snapped, adopting an expression of derision that was rather popular among the Preventers. "I have a large... Suffice it to say that I am a very fortunate man," he boasted. "I like a tight ride, but children are just too much. I find it uncomfortable. And, Polynices, I didn't pay as much money as I've given to you for an unpleasurable experience."

They stared challengingly at each other for a moment, then Polynices' mouth twisted unpleasantly. "Very well," he said shortly. He nodded, and the child was drawn away, and another girl was shoved forward. She was older, but still not old enough - maybe sixteen or seventeen. She was naked, with long dark hair and frightened eyes.

"Another virgin I've saved you," Polynices told him. "She's had minimal training - she was... well, let's just say we only recently acquired her. Does she better fit your specifications?"

"Lovely," Quatre forced himself to breathe appreciatively, his eyes roaming boldly over the girl's naked body.

He could see the fear and pain in her eyes, and the feeling was magnified a hundred times in his own chest, but there was nothing more he could do. Without a word, he reached out and grasped the girl's wrist, yanking her over and shoving her down on the cushions.

She cried out in fear, and cried out again as he stood over her, tearing his clothes off. To his eternal shame, his manhood stood hard and proud in front of him, pulsing with sick desire, fed by his own feelings of anger and fear and shame. He wanted to banish them, wanted to get rid of them, wanted to push them away, pour them into this girl below him.

He fell to his knees, pushing her legs apart and kneeling between them. He reached down and caught her arms, pulling them effortlessly over her head and holding both her wrists in one of his. She cried out again and began pleading with him, begging him to stop, to leave her alone, to not hurt her.

He ignored her, lowering his head to hers, firmly pressing his lips against hers, forcing his tongue into her mouth, tasting her. He moved his mouth over her face, biting down the column of her neck, licking across her taut skin to her breasts.

She screamed in renewed fright and shame as his mouth moved over her nipple, and she began struggling more fiercely. He growled in exasperation, lifting his head to snarl at her. Suddenly, his hand that was holding hers was pushed away, and he looked up to see one of the other naked women removing the girl's hands from his grasp and locking them into a set of the shackles that were set, as he had imagined, into the floor.

Quatre glanced over his shoulder, and Polynices stood there, watching him, an intent, tense expression on his face. Aroused. He was aroused by this. The man smiled, waving a hand at him, encouraging him onward.

And Quatre returned his attention to the girl beneath him, focusing on her body, the shape and feel of her firm breasts, the silkiness of the skin of her inner thighs and the damp slickness of the area between her legs.

He forced himself to ignore her cries, her tears, her attempts to close herself off and protect herself from him. He couldn't allow himself to hear it, couldn't begin to feel the pain radiating off her, because then he would die, and perhaps many others would as well. He had to allow some sick, primal force to rise within him, to enable him to shut off all that he knew was moral and good and decent.

And as he thrust himself into the girl, felt her maidenhood tear around him, heard her anguished scream, he had only one hope.

That he would somehow, someday be able to find that decency again.

Otherwise... he feared that his worst nightmare would come to pass, and he would become the man that Polynices believed him to be.

And he would rather be dead.

+

Author's notes:

Welcome to Shoori's Mythological Allusion Funhouse!

The Seven Against Thebes were the seven warriors that attacked Thebes after the confusion in the succession surrounding the death of Oedipus. After it was discovered that Oedipus had killed his father and married his mother in accordance with prophecy (see Sophocles' play Oedipus Rex for more), he was forced to leave his kingdom. He left twin sons - Polynices and Etocles - as his heirs.

They made an arrangement - each would rule for one year, then stop down for the other brother for one year. Polynices ruled his year and left - but when he returned his brother refused to surrender the throne, and had him thrown out of his native city.

Polynices left, enraged, and gathered allies to bring back with him to recover his throne by force. He, and his allies, were the Seven.

Tydeus he met on his journeys - he had been thrown from his father's court for murder, and was willing to throw in with Polynices if Polynices helped him get his own kingdom back in return.

They went to the kingdom of Adrastus, who had lost his original kingdom upon his father's death, but gained another through marriage. Adrastus agreed to help them, and married each of the young men to one of his daughters.

They gathered four other warriors (and a very big army) and went to attack Thebes, where they pretty much got spanked.

Capaneus had no reverence or fear for the gods, and announced to all and sundry - probably very loudly - that he'd scale the walls of Thebes himself whether Zeus liked it or not. So, Zeus smacked him with a lightening-bolt when he was half-way up, and that was it for Capaneus. It's good to be a god.

Parthenopaues was the son of Meleager and Atalanta, of whom there's a whole separate myth. He was abandoned on Mt. Parthia as a child, and left to deal for himself, which probably embittered him a bit. He got hit in the head by a rock and killed.

Hippomedon was... well, he was very tall. That's all anyone seems to know. He was very handsome, and loved by the ladies, but he got killed too.

Amphiarus knew from a prophecy that if he went to Thebes to fight he'd get killed, but someone bribed his wife with a magic necklace and she convinced him to go. Once they started losing he tried to flee, but was going to get caught and killed messily by Thebans. So Zeus, who kind of liked him, opened up a chasm in the earth and let him fall in, dying rather more neatly. It's good to be a god.

Good old Tydeus got cracked in the head and was on the verge of death. The goddess Athena, who kind of liked him, started down to earth with a magic salve to cure him. But when she got there, she found that he'd beheaded the guy who'd wounded him, and was rather spitefully eating his brains. This grossed her out and she left, taking her magic salve with her. Exit Tydeus.

Polynices watched everyone get killed for a day or so, then got pissed off and challenged his brother Etocles to single combat. They fought for an entire day, then each saw a break in the other's defenses at the same moment, and simultaneously stabbed each other. Thus, the identical twins each saw in the death of his brother a mirror of his own death. Pretty neat.

Adrastus was the only one to get away. He escaped on the magic horse Arion, and came back and finally got permission to bury the bodies of his dead army after Creon, the new king at Thebes, was jerky about it for a week or so and ruined his own life in the process of refusing to allow them to be buried. See Sophocles' Antigone for that story.

More about the Seven Against Thebes can be found in Aeschylus' play The Seven Against Thebes. It's one of the earliest known examples of drama in history, a literary masterpiece and a cultural treasure, but admittedly it's not a very exciting read. But it does tell you more.

Why did I select this story to incorporate into what is supposed to be a happy little five-some story? That should become more apparent... but has a lot to do with the Grecian concept of hubris - overweening pride. If there's anything the Order has in spades, it's hubris. The gods don't like hubris. They tend to deal with people who display that trait. It's good to be a god.

Notes about Quatre's ramblings:

He speaks of an Achilles heel, and seems to equate himself with Achilles. Achilles was the greatest of the Greek warriors who fought against the Trojans in the Trojan War (see Homer's Iliad. But only if you have several weeks). When given the choice by the gods, he chose a short and glorious life over a long one spent in obscurity. He killed his greatest foe, Hector, but was himself killed soon after. So, he kind of met a messy end too, but his side won because of his efforts, unlike any of the Seven.

The Greek army was led by the great king Agamemnon, and his brother Meneleus. The brothers were married to sisters, and Meneleus' wife Helen had run away with Paris, a prince of Troy. The whole point of the Trojan War was to pick her up and get her back, so Meneleus could yell at her about her cheatin' heart.

The Greeks only defeated the Trojans through trickery. They pretended to sail away, leaving a great big wooden replica of a horse in a field nearby, ostensibly as an offering to the gods. The Trojans, thinking they'd finally won this siege, brought the horse into town and had a great big feast and got roaring drunk and probably made fun of the horse. When they all passed out, the Greeks who had hidden in the hollow belly of the horse (sneaky Greeks!) crawled out, and opened the gates of the city to the other Greeks, who'd sailed back under the cover of darkness. Then they proceeded to kick the tar out of the Trojans, burn down the city and sow the ground with salt so that nothing could grow there. Vindictive bunch. Quatre is comparing himself to that horse because he too is not what he seems - he is within the enemy city, waiting to bring others in to destroy it. I liked this comparison. ;)

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