|janecarnall (janecarnall) wrote,|
@ 2009-04-10 08:05:00
End Game: Part 4
This is the fourth part of the final sequence: it's the End Game. Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 are here.)
The previous stories in this series (my Keptverse) began with The Games (six parts) and continued with The Network (one part), The Players (seven parts), The Gambler (seven parts), and The Pieces (seven parts).
The story may be regarded as fanfic set in poisontaster's Keptverse. There is a species of cast list here.
The slave screaming agony into his face had his hands around Kimble's throat.
One free worker leaned in and set a tool against his collar with a sharp click. Another worker with a pair of metal cutters, brutal tools, moved them to his throat. With a harsh snib sound the pressure loosed from his throat and he felt a flash of heat against his chest, but the worker's hands shoved him.
The white room was full of people. The sounds of the white room were the sounds of the arena through the doors: all that was missing from the noise of the white room was the blood-bay of the crowd, and you could hear that whenever the doors opened, and through the walls, about an hour into the games, when the crowd were maddened and being fed.
It was nothing new for one of the injured, fallen into the hands of the sorters who waited behind the doors, to try to attack them.
The other man was still howling: he held his hands out in front of him as if he were begging for manacles, and as he dropped to his knees, he still held his hands out. Kimble went down too, his knees meeting wetness: blood, a lot of it, if he felt it through his work clothes. He could not remember coming on shift, but they must be near the end.
Sam. In the white room. They were both in the white room. Sam was hurt. He knew Sam.
Sam's hands had thick lines on them like cooked meat. Kimble caught at his arms just above the wrists, to support them without touching them, and looked closer.
He had never seen injuries like this in the white room before. And though they were fixable, he wouldn't be allowed to do a fix. It would be days before Sam could fight again. Days, or even weeks. Too long.
Sam was going to die. They would send him through the doors on the next shift, no rest, no waiting. He couldn't fight but he could die.
One of the free workers was bending over them both: she was preparing to make use of a ready-charged ampule. Injuries to the hand hurt savagely: the noises Sam was still making were nothing he could help. But he would live through the next shift, the rest shift, if he were allowed. It was nothing new for a free worker to decide to get rid of an injured survivor making too much noise.
“Let go of his wrists,” the worker said.
“Don't,” Kimble said, knowing it was no use even as he spoke, not even sure why he was protesting. Sam couldn't fight. He couldn't use his hands. He was going to die. Now, later, what difference did it make? Kimble only knew he could not bear it: to see this slave put down with a jab of the needle. Sam was going to die. “Don't – ” He felt the gag closing on his mouth and choked, but he did not let go.
The worker slid her needle in despite him. It was not death. The noises Sam was making had slowed to ragged sobs. Kimble looked up and saw Sam's dark gaze on him, taking him in without hope or surrender. If either of them spoke now, they would both be gagged: Kimble shook his head, very slightly, willing Sam to understand as the drug numbed his pain. He would live another shift if he didn't speak: maybe more. Maybe they did mean to fix him. He let go of Sam's wrists.
The worker turned to Kimble and set her hand against his head to tilt him back and forward, to spray the front of his throat and the back of his neck with an anesthetic: he felt the liquid cold against his skin without understanding.
He was kneeling on the carpet, wet with coffee, not with blood. The walls and floor and ceiling were not white. The collar that had been locked round his throat lay in a blackened part of the carpet, and just then someone sprayed it, with white foam. It smelled odd and caught in his throat.
There was no collar on his neck. Sam's hands were marked with a thick line like cooked meat. Sam's hands were out in front of him, as if waiting to be cuffed, but he wasn't collared either. Sam sobbed once more, and stopped, his breathing ragged. He looked at Kimble: his eyes were wide, seeming to absorb light. “Richard,” he said, and his voice shook. He would be gagged, if he was not killed.
“First degree burns where his collar was: worse in a couple of places, but nothing serious,” the worker said. Dana. Her name was Dana. “Sam, you need to go to hospital. I can't treat you here.”
The words hung there in the white room, which was not white. Coffee, not blood.
“No,” Sam said. He shook his head, violently. He did not speak like a slave. “George. The last channel. My office. Use it.”
No one moved. There was such an absolute command in Sam's voice that Kimble thought he would have obeyed, if he understood what was wanted.
Sam took his eyes off Kimble. He was still holding out his hands in front of him, his wrists resting on his knees: he lifted his hands, burns outward, staring at one of the workers. “We have this,” he said. “This is the signal. Trust me. We don't have long, they'll shut down every channel. Send the message. In bocca al lupo.”
“Sam,” the man said. George. “For this?”
“Yes,” Sam said. “In bocca al lupo. The last channel. Send it. Tell them.” His breath caught. “It's now. Vattene!”
After a long moment, George nodded. He turned, abruptly, and went down the hall towards the door into the other side of the house.
The other four were crouching, mouths open, eyes wide. Their astonishment was visible: but it seemed as if they knew something: they didn't ask.
“There's nothing on the news,” Benton said.
“Like there would be,” Ray said.
Adam shook his head. “There are no new videos on Youtube. Not for nearly an hour.”
“Sam,” Dana said. “I need to get you to the clinic, right now, and then to the hospital.”
Sam's headshake overrode her without a word. He was laughing: hard, unamused, shaking. Kimble heard him laugh and knew who he was: the harsh sound was as familiar as a calloused hand. He put his hands up to his neck, bare of collar, and touched the tender flesh that had burned.
“It's started. It's here. It's now,” Sam said. “Don't waste your time. Richard was my canary.”
They all looked at him: Kimble stared back. His skin felt strange to his hands. His hands felt strange on his skin. My canary.
“Richard was my early warning,” Gerard said. “When the haeftlings rise, what else did you think Commerce would do with the convicts? They can kill everyone wearing a convict collar just by turning a switch. They turned the switch. The rising – the change – it's now. The Games should be on TV, but there won't be any Games. There won't be anyone to fight them. You all have to go. We've talked about this. You can't waste time.”
Adam went back into the lounge. Dana stood up and looked after him. Benton and Ray were both hunkered down, staring at Sam.
“But what if you're wrong? What if this is just Richard?” Benton looked – sounded – both appalled and calm. Ray glanced at him, then at Kimble.
“Sam, you bought him – for this?"
“I'm not wrong,” Sam said. He looked at Kimble again. “Welcome to the revolution.”
Adam came back out: he was carrying his laptop and his coat. He sounded almost amused. “They're showing a prerecorded show from last year on the Games channel. And the rolling news is repeating sports headlines every five minutes. Sam's right. Let's go, Dana: we can be at Melissa's in an hour.”
“You're serious?” Ray stood up: Benton followed him a moment later. “It's started? Really?”
“It's now,” Sam said. He had not moved: his head was tilted back, staring from face to face of the people standing round him. “Not tomorrow, not next week, it's now. Get what you need, get out of here, go.”
For the next two or three minutes, it was almost like being alone. Sam stared at Kimble, his eyes dark, his mouth open. He said nothing.
Three of them came back: Adam was standing by the front door. None of them looked at Kimble. Before any of them could speak, Sam said “You do what Melissa says, kids. You're going to work for her, and that's an order. Give her Willow's report, the first one – that'll give her the best idea we've got where they're rising.”
“You should come with us,” Ray said, almost as Dana said “We shouldn't leave you.”
“You can't be serious,” Sam said. He smiled, the familiar gargoyle grin. “Arrivederci, bambini.”
The door closed, shutting them in with the noises from the lounge: attenuated and far away, but they kept tugging at Kimble's spine, at the back of his neck.
“Richard,” Sam said.
Kimble looked back at him. You can't fight me, he thought of saying: it was almost funny. He felt his mouth twitching into a kind of smile. Hands numbed by a local, crippled with burns, couldn't use a weapon, couldn't strike an effective blow.
“Richard,” Sam said again.
“Deputy Gerard,” Kimble said. The burned wounds would scar Sam's hands forever. In the arena, the damage would be a death. It was never worthwhile trying to repair wounds if the wounded couldn't fight within a very few days. Sam couldn't fight. He couldn't use a weapon. He was disabled. He was alone.
“I didn't know I was your canary.” He could take the gun away from Sam, and then. There's no point in fighting me. He had wanted to stay alive, but he could kill Sam. Kill himself. The noises from the lounge were screaming at him quietly. He wanted to stop them.
He stood up, and walked away down the hall. The television was on. The scenes on the screen were not familiar, but the noises got louder in his mind. He had heard all this before. The scarred coffee table was empty. Kimble reached down, putting one hand on the table's surface, feeling strange and offbalance, and switched the television off. The sounds died. Kimble could see himself, reflected dimly in the screen. He had no collar on his neck.
He stood up, and put his hands to his own throat. The collar was really gone.
Welcome to the revolution.
Sam was still where he had left him, on his knees. The house felt very silent. Kimble crouched down in front of him, and took his wrists: Sam didn't stop him. Kimble stared at him from very close up.
“You saved my neck.”
“Yes,” Sam said.
Sam smiled. Not the familiar, humourless grimace: brief, but curiously sweet. “Everything changed,” he said. “Besides, I wanted to.”
“I don't understand,” Kimble said, after a minute.
“I've lied to you since you got here,” Sam said. “I don't need to lie to you now. I need you. Not for very much longer. You can go once I'm done. But I need you now.” He turned his wrists in Kimble's grasp, not much, almost as if he were reminding Kimble. “Be my hands.”
The door to the other half of the house slammed open and George came through it, almost at a run: he glanced down the hall and came towards them.
“I got through,” he said. “I spoke to someone I know: I delivered your message. I checked the news online. There's every sign it's happening. They'll come.”
“Good,” Sam said. “You've got to go. Get your laptop. Take whatever you need. Get on your way.”
Kimble felt George's cold blue eyes on him. “We'll all go,” George said.
“There's no time,” Sam said. “Richard's going to unlock some doors for me. You don't need me along.” He tilted his head back, as he had done for the other four, but the command in his voice was less compelling: he sounded as if he were issuing a reminder. “You don't have time,” he said again. “If you start now, I think you can do it. They don't know we know – not yet.”
George shook his head, “I'm not leaving you.”
“Go get Giles and Willow and get them out. We're all safer once Willow's out with everything she knows. I want you to get them safe home. Go.”
There was a moment of wrenching struggle on George's face: he shook his head, again, looking bitter. “Sam,” he said, and glanced at Richard. His eyes were cold and assessing. “I hope to God – ” He did not finish the sentence. He turned away. When he came out of the lounge with his laptop cased under his arm, he did not come back towards them, but opened the front door, and lifted his hand as he left, in a kind of salute.
to Part 5
Happy Easter. *wanly* I have looked my Easter weekend in the face and concluded that it's better not to attempt to post Part 5 and continuing until Easter's done with. It's not all chocolate eggs and joy, you know.