M'ayen hadn't honestly intended to pull the lad back in that evening. It had seemed sensible to wait another day, work out what he was going to do, find a cover story for when he was asked -- because fear didn't last forever, sooner or later the boy would tell someone, sooner or later he was going to be asked. For the first time in a long time M'ayen was worried.
And then the rumours started to circle around the Weyr. He hadn't been the only one annoyed by the banned lad Impressing. Rumours said that the Weyrwoman was incensed. And that-- that there was hope.
Unjustifiable interrogation was only unjustifiable if it didn't work. If it actually garnered useful information then.. well, perhaps he'd gone a step or two too far, never mind, he'd got the information that was needed.
Once you'd gone a certain distance the only way through was to keep going.
Garatt had looked terrified to be summoned from his cot - as well he might. The boy was snivelling before he'd even passed through the office door, the sniffles turning into hiccuping tears as M'ayen closed the door behind them. Tall and skinny, he hugged his arms around himself and shrank back against the office wall as though that could save him from anything if M'ayen wanted to hurt him.
He could push that, terrify the boy until he vomited or wet himself again, train him until he did so in class at nothing more than a sharp look, the same way M'ayen could make him break into tears at a glance already. Something dark and angry and predatory in M'ayen wanted to; see how far Garatt could be broken in private until M'ayen's behaviour in public could be exemplary. That would be another way to save yourself, a small voice whispered. New Candidates would never know what had come before, would only see a Candidate who seemed to fall apart for truly no good reason. M'ayen could shrug his shoulders, proclaim his confusion at such strange behaviour, be truly mystified as the boy was handed to the mindhealers, wipe his hands clean of the whole thing.
After all, it wasn't him whose dragon had terrified Garatt on the Hatching Sands. No-one could blame him if the boy later fell apart.
No. Today wasn't about that. Today was about finding information - the information that justified the morning's actions.
"Garatt!" he said sharply, and the boy's eyes turned to him, wide and terrified. "Tell me truthfully why you have Asheran's firelizard."
It was the same wherrycrap story as earlier; proddiness, eggs, threat from a wher. Even the boy didn't seem to believe it any more. Not even a child would.
Except perhaps a child raised well away from the Weyr and firelizards. That child might. Garatt just might. But if he did... that didn't mean he didn't have any useful information to give. It just meant he might not know it yet.
"It occurs to me that you might be telling the truth," M'ayen said casually. "Or at least, the truth as you believe it." He watched disbelieving hope start to dawn across the boy's face. "A'shran really left you to carry the can, didn't he? Of course, as a Weyrling he can't be punished. He has a bronze dragon after all. He gets the prize and walks away free and easy with no consequences attached." He paused for a heartbeat. "What a pity Candidates aren't protected in the same way. And there you are, left holding his firelizard so everyone can look at you." Another pause. M'ayen watched that hope drain away, replaced with horrified realisation. "I'd wager you thought he was your friend too." He let his gaze drift towards the door thoughtfully. "I wonder what the Weyrwoman will say when she finds out."
"I'm leaving!" Likely the boy would never know what made him blurt that, wouldn't know that some silences were deliberate, long and uncomfortable until the victim felt obliged to fill them. "To--tomorrow? I'm going home."
Inwardly M'ayen cursed. A few days ago that might have been fine but it was unlikely a wealthy Holder would look favourably on his son and heir arriving home with stripes across his hand. Never mind. Get the information now, work on what to do about that later. Instead he injected his voice with scorn. "You think going home would save you from the Weyrwoman? You think that would stop her ordering your arrest?"
"...Arrest?" It seemed impossible Garatt's eyes could get wider or more tearful.
"Your friend," M'ayen stressed the word, "put eggs at risk. Gold eggs. At a time when they'd already been endangered in an explosion. Do you think she's just going to let you go home to your Daddy and wave you good bye if she thinks you had anything to do with it?"
"But I--" Garatt shook his head desperately, searching for words. "I didn't--"
"Garatt." M'ayen leaned forward over the desk. "Tell me what you know."
"I don't--" There was a panicked sob behind the words, "I don't know--"
"Who did he know? Who was he friends with? Who would have helped him, Garatt?" M'ayen held the boy's gaze.
"I--Everyone. Everyone liked Asheran." Garatt looked trapped, lost for words.
M'ayen let his hand rest casually on his drawer handle. The boy's eyes followed the movement, and he swallowed visibly. As expected, he found more words. "I don't-- he had a girlfriend?" he offered desperately. "I-- I don't know her name." M'ayen opened the drawer, "She had a wher!" Garatt's voice rose, shrill with panic. "I don't know more about her, I swear, I don't, just the wher doesn't like firelizards."
"Tell me more." M'ayen let his hand still. "Who else, Garatt?"
"I don't--" He could see the boy searching his mind frantically. "Girls!" he blurted. "Lots-- lots of girls. They were naked on the beach in the water. Asheran wasn't-- he said he kissed one of them."
"Which one?" The boy hesitated, and M'ayen reached into the drawer. "Which one, Garatt?"
"I don't know!" Tears again, hiccuping gasping tears, the boy wheezing as though he'd forgotten how to breathe properly. "I swear, I swear, I don't know, please!"
He was scared enough for M'ayen to believe him. Just for the fun of it, he pulled the cane out anyway, watched the boy's eyes follow it as he flexed it between his hands.
Oh, it wouldn't be hard for him to break him the way he considered. Not if he was already this terrified. Just a few little pushes further.
"It's not enough," M'ayen said, keeping his voice hard, keeping the cane between his fingers. "You think that'll get you out of trouble with the Weyrwoman? He likes girls, and has a girlfriend with a wher? That could be half the Weyr."
"I don't know, I don't know!" He was nearing the edge of what useful information the boy had now, M'ayen knew, and his scowl was not faked. It wasn't enough, not enough for what he needed. "He-- he said if, if Felix got too much, I, I should go to someone--"
"I need names, Garatt." Idly, M'ayen ran his fingers down the cane,
"I don't.. don't.." From somewhere in the recesses of Garatt's memory he found a name. "Tyme! Tyme! She was good with firelizards!"
Likely it was all the boy had. For the pleasure of doing it and to see Garatt flinch, he swished the cane lightly through the air, watched the boy stumble back, hands clasped tightly together.
It really wouldn't take much to break him completely. Not much at all.
"All right," he said crisply, finally, and set the cane back on his desk. "I believe you. For now. But I don't know if the Weyrwoman will." He leaned forward again. "I advise you to go back to your cot and have a good hard think about what you know. I'll ask you again tomorrow. I'm sure you'll be more helpful then."
He watched as the boy stumbled out, holding that stern glare.
And if that didn't work, he was going to need to come up with some other way to keep the boy quiet.
Blackadder: I mean, what about the people that do all the work?
Baldrick: The servants.
Blackadder: No, me; *I'm* the people who do all the work.