Washington, North American Republic – 7/4/2076
The one who threatens to cut my eye out is at least sixty pounds overweight and smells like raw sewage. He’s holding a stainless steel kitchen knife in his fat, grubby hand, waving it to and fro, mumbling about all the heinous things he’s going to chop off bit by bit, girlie girl. Someone tricked him (without much effort, I imagine) into believing that cutlery is more menacing than a semi-automatic, and I have the funniest feeling that someone is watching through the camera mounted in the ceiling corner. A ten-year-old camera, manufactured in China in the pre-isolationist days, with grainy output and a marked inability to properly connect to secured network systems.
My temporary residence, a six-by-six cell, is barely enough to fit someone of my stature, and for every second the fat man spends here, another half-gallon of sweat spurts out from his armpits, soaking his undersized army jacket a darker shade of green. It’s hot. The invention known as air circulation is lost on these pathetic little cretins with their dim little minds and inflated sense of power. They don’t know how to treat their captives. And so they are doomed to fail.
It will be a pleasure to kill them all.
Fat Man rolls up his sleeves and sinks onto the thin-legged metal chair opposite me, knife pointed at my right eye. “You look scared, girlie girl.”
“I’m surprised is all.”
“Why’s that, then?” He stabs the table—also metal—and the blade bounces off and nicks his palm. “Fuck!” He reels back, his fat ass slipping off the chair, and the jolly dumb giant crashes to the ground so hard my home-away-from-home shakes from floor to ceiling camera.
“I take it back. I’m flabbergasted. I was wondering how someone so large could fit into a chair so small without propelling it into the next dimension. Now I’m wondering how someone so stupid even knows how to sit in a chair to begin with.” On the scratched table surface is a blurred reflection of my face. The swelling from my initial interrogation has gone down, but the entire right side is black and blue, and the tear in my bottom lip is caked over with brown, hardened blood. “Ah, so that’s why you aimed it at my right side. You think the threat of hurting something already hurting will scare me. Cute.”
The table collides with the wall, the edge passing so close to my face I catch a whiff of death from a previous conspirator’s (no doubt short) incarceration. A deafening ring of metal on stone resounds throughout the tiny room for a good five seconds, and Fat Man is a bit panicked for a few of them—did he make himself go deaf? Oh no!
Once he regains what little composure he can manage, he swipes the knife from where in landed in the corner next to my filthy prison cot. Then he grabs the front of my shirt and hauls me from my seat, intending to drive the knife into my skull without another word.
But he hesitates. He can kill me and he would if he could get away with it, but he is every bit as bound to keep me here (alive) in this damned hell-hole as I am to stay here until Dock arrives (guns blazing) to save the not-a-damsel in distress. His bulging eyes flick from the ceiling camera to me to the ceiling camera to me to the ceiling camera to me until he starts to waver slightly on his feet. It’s hot. And it’s nearly twelve o’clock, judging by the watch Fat Man just unwittingly revealed is strapped to his wrist.
I’m not supposed to know the time. It’s…dangerous.
Knowing the hour on the hour or the half hour on the quarter is how conspirators get their shit together and pull things over on the government. Funnily enough, I scheduled this little shindig for 11:54 AM.
It is now 11:54 AM.
So I knee Fat Man in the balls so hard he’s out before he hits the floor again. I grab the knife in mid-air, tucking it into my too-big waistband, and, as the people on the other side of the camera no doubt begin to freak out because they’ve lost their feed (where my people have gained it), I hop over Fat Man and wait patiently in front of the door. Patiently. Patiently. Slightly impatiently.
Finally, forty-two seconds later than scheduled, the rusted iron bolt locks clank open, and the mass of mildewed metal is hauled out of my way. Dock stands on the other side, dressed to the nines in night black and loaded with more weaponry than a border zone cargo truck. He tugs down his face mask to flash me a grin, but it collapses into a tight grimace.
“You look like shit.” His gaze drifts to the unconscious Fat Man. “Did he break anything?”
“No. And lose the worried puppy dog eyes. We don’t have time for that.” I step past him and kick the cell door closed, locking Fat Man inside with a metallic bang. “You’re running late.” For emphasis, I try to make a break for the stairwell to freedom, but Dock’s hand grabs my arm so fast I nearly lose my footing on the damp cement.
“If you’re not going to let me look you over, the least you can do is put this on.” He reaches into the top pocket of his pack and tugs a neatly folded piece of clothing out.
“I appreciate the concern, Dock, but it’s already two hundred degrees in here. I don’t need a coat.”
“You’ll want this one.” He grabs it by the collar and lets the material unfurl itself. It’s the reality of the red and black resistance coat from my sketchbook, complete with the emblem I designed six years ago—the golden abstract outline of an open book. Before I can get my jaw working again, Dock deftly slips the sleeves over my bare, sweaty arms. “There. Now you look like a leader.”
I make a point to stare anywhere but his face. “I’ve always looked like a leader.”