Part 1

Gate with iron points and barbed wire. Black and white image.

FEBRUARY 2017. CAMP 4.5.2. 

They were sinister kicking boots from the kicker and her ribs hurt like hell. Shaking from exhaustion, her wrists dribbled lines of blood where the restraints cut in; her knotted hair clung against her damp face as she checked his departure from beneath her limp fringe. The arrest flashed back. Everything they’d done happened so quickly.

But still, she thought. I never shared a damned thing.

‘Prisoner 64721 secured,’ boomed the watcher’s voice, who owned the kicking boots. ‘Lock down!’

The metal against metal as the barred door slammed across startled her weak body, but there was no surrender… The thought caressed her mind while she pressed against the hard floor. The cold concrete soothed her aches while she rested quietly in the cell, listening to her own breathing. Just for a minute, the desperate events of her arrest flashed again: the truck escorting her to the camp, the clamor of chains pinning her feet and wrists against the interior steel walls, it all echoed in her mind. Yet, the joke was on them. The inconvenience created, the lengths that the Family executed to find her, to arrest and interrogate her… and for what? Her faded smile stretched into a grimace when her bound hands moved to rest her head, watching through the bars, waiting for their return. Her thoughts raced, her eyes closed, and an uncontrollable heaviness lulled her mind.

If I hadn’t been so tired, if my nightshift at Club Star wasn’t so brutal, she thought, and her mind returned to the formal knock, knock, knock on her door from the Militia. Maybe I would have run.

The underground club invited preternaturals to prowl, exploiting the unsuspecting, while she danced in her barely-there costume; entertaining the relentless perverts that distracted her.  She’d fought the watchers, pushing away their harsh whispers stretching into her mind, invading her thoughts – as though they owned her. Fighting each other’s torment to see who would win her.

Julianna recounted the events colliding in her concentration as her eyes struggled open. The exhaustion was impossible to fight; but the cool floor eased her fresh bruising. For the moment, she was safe, away from the walkers and the watchers in the club, away from their lurking and manipulation, and abilities that she struggled to stop as a minority normal human girl. For the moment she understood the Catholics and Muslims – there were only a few of them left when she was a toddler…now they were underground or dead. The norms are next, she thought. Then there’ll be no one left to do anything. That’s their plan. That’s the Family’s plan.

Though the walkers had physically cornered her with their strength, the watchers’ intrusions during stage performance unnerved her. Their prodding ability, to enter into a person’s mind, only slowed after the bartender agreed to keep the shots coming. She’d drunk plenty and danced more, hoping to blur the thoughts they reached, making her secrets incomprehensible to them. They were unforgiving and cunning, though, and their whisper ability, full of deceit and power tore at her mind. Her thoughts manipulated by their words spinning as they spoke to her inside her own mind, distracted her from the Militia’s presence in the club. While she danced in their world, their attempts to lure her to their call had consumed her, and so she continued to drink enough to sink a ship, to cloud their readings when her singing to herself didn’t obstruct them any longer.

Now the drunken blurs were a blessing. The alcohol hindered the interrogation, too; the watchers amongst her captors only made out ramblings of slurred speech. Their skill, their ability at manipulating her mind failed much to the commander’s protest, prompting more torment instead.

Just an informal chat, they had said, as they led her to the truck, her feet barely skimming the ground. Then she arrived at the Militia’s core reprogramming camp.

Julianna lifted her head. The clock outside the cell displayed three hours after midnight. The arrest happened thirty-two hours ago. She tapped her fingers out on the ground, no, thirty-six hours. Counting nightshift, the thirty-six hours of sleep deprivation equalled closer to forty-two, and, as sleep threatened, her better judgment hazed again. She lowered her head back to her bleeding wrists and closed her eyes. The cruel interrogation had started early and under Militia standards, even turned one guard’s stomach until he vomited in the corner.

She stretched her fingers as much as the plastic binds around her wrists allowed and she moved her arms until they were happy again. The concrete floor offered little comfort now. Her eyes scanned the empty cell. Her reality was fracturing beyond the point of caring; it came and then faded back and forth and then back again. The visions blurred, the countless questions echoed.

Who is Isis? What connections do you have with the Rebellion? Where’s the Safe House?

She cringed as the thoughts taunted her. She barely understood what they were asking; she said she was a delivery girl for the Guild, an impartial coven that stayed hidden from conflict. She told them she danced for a living when she didn’t courier their packages. No one told her anything. Isn’t Isis a bird?

Her question prompted a rush of water over the towel already suffocating her face and she passed out, and then the kicker arrived for his inspection.

Her eyes flicked open in the cell that held her captive, and sleep abandoned its final chance.

Heavy footsteps approached, confident and pausing between each footfall, and she lifted her head enough to see the yellow line outside her cell door.

Julianna shifted focus to the lower bunk beside her.

Lifting her tired body until her knees were comfortable on the hard ground, she leaned into the thin mattress. She wanted to greet her visitor. She wanted to smile for her old acquaintance.

She waited for the footfalls to stop.

Sergeant Kicker returned, or maybe he’d never left. His hand gripped a Sig, good for combat, and he pointed it in her direction. Her eyes concentrated on his twitching finger readying on the double trigger. Engaging it once initiated its semi-auto prowess, and she knew one false move would see a good twelve rounds pack tightly into her chest.