::TWENTY ONE ::
We’re a few hours from Epsilon 4. Franks and Small, up front. Johnson back here with me, rigging charges, preparing explosives. No one’s said anything in the past few hours, once we got done discussing how we’re going to get into the prison ship to get her out. Everyone’s avoiding talking about Jane. Especially around me.
Called her my baby. Don’t exactly know when I started to think of her that way. Started to think of her as mine. I haven’t felt that way, haven’t wanted to feel that way, about a woman in a long time. Where you want her, body and soul, to belong to you. Settled for bought company for so long that I had almost forgotten that ache, when you want something so badly, when everything in you responds to even the thought of that one person.
I had gone looking for her twice already, on the Decatur, after being apart from her. Needing to be with her again. I couldn’t explain what it is about her either. Not in a way anyone else would be able to understand. I don’t know if anyone else would ever look at Jane and see her the way I see her. Something in her smile. When she looks at you and really smiles at you. She smiles with her whole soul.
Hard to say just how big this room is. Quiet echoes. The dim light barely able to push back the darkness of the room. Everything in here was made this way to instill fear. The dark. The cold. Unknown noises. People deal with fear in a couple of ways. Some cower, become weak, and so become malleable, compliant. That’s the purpose of this room, to break down cocky prisoners into something that can be reshaped for a purpose. More easily controlled. Other than the two guards that gave me my wake up call, I haven’t heard any others. Maybe they don’t use guards to control prisoners. Relying on psychological methods.
Not everybody becomes weak in the presence of fear. Fear can be harnessed. Let myself grow still and calm and dark. Let the pulse slow, the breath deepen. Feel the blood pulse in my ears. No room for anger, anger is weak, anger is fleeting. It has no power. Sink further. To that place of darkness in the human soul. The predator. Strip away the veneer of civility, and be what we are when the lights go off. Accept the death, the killing.
I’m not armed right now. That’s not really a problem.When it all starts to go wrong, there will be enough weapons laying on the ground to choose from. Most people in this room would have had any weapons they brought in with them stripped, as I did. You arm yourself quickly, if you intend to survive, if you intend to not fall prey to bigger predators. So someone in here is going to be armed, and that’s where to start.
I smell him before he gets close. A nauseating wave of fear stink and piss. No sounds from him but strangled shrieks. Waving a crudely made blade out of a short piece of sharpened metal, it’s hilt wrapped in rags. Sweeping in short arcs. He’s had some skill in it’s use, but we are, afterall, in a military prison. He’s had too much experience with people who were afraid. Too much time thinking that little piece of metal gave a more prominent place in the jungle.
Step inside the next arc, ignoring my revulsion at the stench of him. A hand on the chin, one in the turf of his hair, a quick twist, and it’s done. So easy to kill a man, when you don’t care that you’ve done it. When you can separate yourself from the act itself. The blade in his hand, a twisted sharpened piece of metal he’d found somewhere. About eight inches long or so. He had another stashed in the mess of rags that were his clothes.
I don’t bother trying to hide the body. I want blood, as much of it as possible. There is nothing so terrifying to the human psyche as a meaningless, ugly death, and the promise of more. I cut the man from just under the navel, to the windpipe. He’s already dead of course. Leave him lying in front of the doors the guards left through, while I begin to circle the room, to see what else I can find.
The walls are steel, about twelve feet high here. An unbroken line around the room. There are about eight other prisoners here. One I left alive. Cowering in fear, clearly beaten already, consumed by his own terror. Afraid of the dark. Wouldn’t leave the tiny circle of light even as I advanced on him. Would rather face certain death than the dark. In the end I left him there, alive. Of the seven remaining, two had knives of some sort. One told me we were being kept in the basement, before I killed him. I had already guessed as much. It would fit, with the attempt to terrify new prisoners, to condition them for what was to come.
There is a grate floor underneath, much of my handiwork having oozed into it already. The ceiling, also, is a grate, and that’s what I’m looking over now. These men managed to get metal from somewhere. Something loose. Break into a grin when I find it, a torn piece of water pipe. I had been wondering what that sound was. The dripping. Hell, I had thought they might even have piped the noise in for atmosphere.
The pipe, torn at the bottom, loosened from it’s bracket on the wall, found it’s way up through the grate ceiling. If it could, then so could I. It took some doing, and I probably wouldn’t have been able to at all, if I didn’t have a couple of handy pieces of metal to pry my way past the start of it. Eventually, I’m up inside the floor, making my way carefully around the outside of the wall. Back to that main door. Which doesn’t look anywhere near as formidable from twelve feet up. Leave the broken end of a shiv stuck in the mechanism. Fool the sensors that the doors still closed, and slip out into the hallway, dropping down soundlessly from the grated ceiling.
About an hour before we hit Epsilon 4. Johnson and I, sitting across from one another, silent. Waiting. Conserving energy. Smalls is nervous, and has left Franks to fly, while he paces back and forth in the back bay of the Virago. Normally, when I was getting prepared for killing, I’d shut everything off, so I wouldn’t feel anything at all. Just do what needed done. It’s not like that this time. I tried, at first.
I’m haunted by the smell of her. As though she’s something my body refuses to let me put away. I find that, for probably the first time in my life, the thought of a woman actually helps me clear my thoughts for other things. The scent of her, the smell of her in my shirt, makes me calm. Think of her voice, of her smile, and let everything go deep, go dark. I’ve killed for a lot of things in my life, sometimes for no reason at all. This is the first time in a long time that I’ve killed for a woman. Maybe the first time I’ve killed for a woman I considered mine.
When this is over, I’m going to have to tell her that. A lot of women might not understand that, but Jane would.
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