To pick a body apart takes special precision. You have to dig deep, deep into the flesh, through the muscles, until you hit bone. In some cases you have to dig your way through a crystal first. After months of picking and prying Zoe has managed to strike gold, which in that case, is the venerable form slumbering deep within the crystal. And a treasure she is; a female titan, finally ready for subjection to Zoe’s curiosity. She hoisted Annie out of the crystal’s husk with rough hands. She regarded her with the same inquisitiveness as she did Eren. But this time the Titan is all hers. What happened to this one, no one else seemed to care. Unlike Eren, this one had dealt a fair deal of damage, so she could be subjected to any torture necessary.
Zoe was grinning from ear to ear as Annie finally came to. “Welcome back.” Zoe greets. “You have so much to tell me!” She began breathing heavily with excitement. The kind she hasn’t felt since observing Sonny and Bean.
What she had before her was an opportunity. An opportunity to see if the human titans could feel pain, if they had any weakness and strengths the average titan did not, if they were capable of love. Zoe already had a few speculations based around Eren, but variety was always nice.
Annie tried to pull back from the woman cupping her face, but her restraints would not allow for more than a tug or two. Her head dipped down, she knew she had nowhere to go and nothing to do. She does her best to not betray what she is feeling, what she is thinking—that she is cornered and helpless and bound to snap. She has heard what they do to titans here and she knew that her attempts at evasion had only made things worse.
Zoe leaned in, “so, titan, did it hurt when Ackerman brought you down?’
Annie refused her an answer.
“I suppose we’ll just have to find out the hard way.” Zoe shrugged. “I’ve developed something quite intriguing.” She held up a syringe filled to the brim with a rusty colored liquid. “It triggers certain chemicals in the brain—a bunch of different hormones, norepinephrine and epinephrine and such.” When Annie didn’t seem to show any particular interest in her new concoction she clarified, “it kickstarts the flight or fight response.”
Annie remained impassive. “I can trigger your titan state with a single injection.” This got a twinge of a rouse from Annie, but it only flashed in her eyes briefly. “Which means that I can begin my work anytime I want—whenever, wherever, however. And today I think I’d like to see how well a human titan fares without sunlight. More specifically, let’s test regeneration without sunlight. I can kill three birds with one stone. We’ll find out just how much pain you retain in human form…”
Annie tried her best to not listen to what she was in for.
“Even if the whole world hates you, your dad is the one person who is on your side. So promise me… that you will return.” She couldn’t promise him anything anymore. Especially not that. But it was somehow comforting to think that, somewhere her father was still on her side. Even as she was being led deep underground to be deprived of light. The very essence of her strength. Even fully human she’d always had a peculiar aversion of the dark. Zoe successfully secured her to the ground with a series of tough wire and rope. The woman was practically salivating at her this opportunity. A needle buried itself into Annie’s neck and then a second. She realized that, that first one was a tranquilizer of sorts, just in case the bindings didn’t hold. Not that she had much fight left in her anyways. She watched Zoe move out of harm’s way and succumbed to the liquid forced into her veins. No sooner had she transformed did Zoe make quick work of her. With aid, Zoe had driven large nails through her hands and feet and a few on her collar and stomach for good measure. Blood ran down the length of her body, pooling around her quickly. It was wet and uncomfortable and she could do nothing to alleviate the feeling. As she struggled to ignore the mess of blood, Zoe busied herself with spilling more of it. Annie tried to generate a layer of protection, but it did not seem to come. The other woman was skilled and had her left arm sawed off in an instant. Annie let out a thundering cry that she hadn’t even realized was her own until after the fact.
Zoe rubbed her hands together, “oh man, oh man, this is amazing.”
Annie couldn’t tell if the subject of Zoe’s fascination was her severed arm or that she failed so miserably to protect it.
Everything became a blur after that. She knew she was a titan, but she was barely lucid. She couldn’t tell if days had passed or if it had been weeks. But she was holed up in the darkness with those nails protruding all over her body. All that she had to dwell on was her own self-pity, shame, weakness, and the dull pulsing inflicted by the nails. By that point she had grown used to the lack of weight on her right shoulder. Her arm should have regenerated by then, but it was only a stump—a mockery of what it should have been. She screamed out again.
She hated them both more than the pain itself. She was concerningly happy when fatigue finally claimed her. That kind of dark—the sleep kind of dark—was comforting and inviting. She did not dream, but she did not feel either. Not feeling was the best feeling in the world.
She woke up feeling small. Physically and mentally so. Small and weak. She realized that she was lying on the ground, still bound, but with a little more freedom. Her hair fanned out around her, sticky with crimson. Her face wrinkled with disgust when she realized that she was in fact laying in her own blood. But more than that, she was cold. She sat herself up and tried in vain to wipe away the blood. She only smeared it. And she is overcome by lingering agony, horrible, dreadful lingering agony. It found a core where her arm had been torn away from her shoulder and crawled up her neck and then down her torso. A figure sat across the room leering at her. Watching her suffer and jotting it down.
With her head hanging limp she dropped her mask at last. A few silent tears landed on the floor below and her body trembled, just barely noticeable. She wants to wrap her arms around herself, if for no other reason than keep Zoe’s imploring eyes off of her. But her restraints still aren’t loose enough to allow for that. So she is left exposed to the overly enthusiastic scientist. The tears began to fall in a more steady unstoppable stream and Zoe wonders briefly if she went too far.
She observed Annie’s display venerability with a strange sense of longing and a need to comfort her darling titan. She hadn’t particularly meant to break her down like that, she just wanted to learn. Before her eyes she sees Annie’s anger morph into rage. The girl was screaming at her, cursing her for the week and a half of torture. She fears that the young woman will shred her vocal cords. So despite all warnings from Levi and her subordinates, she moved in closer to the former titan.
“Stay back.” The demand is said in a horse half-hearted growl.
But Zoe goes within a reaching distance of the raging, fearful Annie regardless. The girl was like a cornered animal and lashed out, attempting to bite the older woman. Zoe didn’t back down, instead she wrapped her arms around the titan girl. Annie still struggled against her hold, screaming, thrashing, and eventually crying when Zoe brushed up against a tender spot. She looked down at the girl weeping in her arms—how could someone with the abilities of a titan look so fragile? She didn’t think that she would get this kind of reaction, not at all. It was by far, much more alluring than Bean and Sonny. Annie had grown silent. At first Zoe thought that she had killed the young woman already and had a shrill scream of frustration on her tongue. But she could feel the girl’s chest rising and falling steadily against her own. And she realizes that she was stroking hugging her, stroking her back absently but lovingly all the same. She had been doing it the whole time and it had somehow worked. Zoe’s brows furrowed, that was just one more mystery she need to unravel—how was it that she was both a source of pain and a source of comfort. Maybe…likely, the girl was just worn out and was in the middle of falling asleep or passing out. That would make more sense. But when Zoe stops rubbing her back she nuzzles her head in the crook of the older woman’s neck and softy urges her to continue. Zoe’s curiosity came to another peak and she knows that she has more tests to run. She hugged Annie closer and tighter—ignoring her small wince.
Zoe decides that she will begin testing the ability of human-titans to love.