|janecarnall (janecarnall) wrote,|
@ 2009-04-14 09:32:00
End Game: Part 5
This is the fifth part of the penultimate sequence: it's the End Game. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 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 door closed. Before the silence of the house could fall, Sam said “All right, Richard, help me up.” He leaned forward, bearing down against Kimble's hands, and speechlessly, Kimble pushed himself to his feet and pulled Sam up with him.
“We're going through to the other side,” Sam said. “You'll have to help me open the doors.” His skin felt cold and moist: he was sweating. He had been badly injured and there was no fix for the next day: he was going into shock and he would die.
The white room opened around Kimble, faded: he stood still, trying to grasp where he was. Sam said, almost in his ear, “Richard. The door. This way.”
Kimble went where Sam directed him. There was a keypad. Sam lifted his right hand, the raw mark of cooked flesh striped across it. “Stay with me. Richard. You've got to use my hand to enter the numbers. Four numbers. My forefinger. Okay?”
“What?” Kimble turned to look at Sam.
“Can you do it?” Sam sounded urgent. “I can't feel my hands, I can't use them.” His right hand was almost over the keypad. “Use my forefinger to enter the code. Four numbers. Just four. If you do it, there'll be sixteen numbers.”
Kimble stared at the keypad, and Sam's hand. If he put his own hand over it, he supposed he could move Sam's forefinger, like a lever. It was a fingerprint lock. He put his own hand out, over Sam's: it seemed as if he could feel the heat from the burn, though he wasn't touching it. “What numbers?”
Sam told him, one by one. On the fourth, there was a click. The door was open.
“Good work,” Sam said, and turned, holding his hands out, to shoulder through the door: he staggered, and Kimble went after him.
“We've got four more doors,” Sam said. “Five. But four that matter. The secure cells. Come on, don't quit on me now – ”
He might have said more, but Kimble did not hear him. They were going slowly but steadily towards the stone box he remembered, the dark place. It was cold. The bunk was metal.
“Same set of numbers. Do you remember?” Sam put his hand over the keypad. “Don't scare the girl,” he added. He gave Kimble the numbers again, one by one.
The smell wasn't right for the white room: the dorms had smelled like this. There was barely a sound from inside the dark cell, but someone was alive in there.
“Bo,” Sam said. “Come out. We're not going to hurt you.” His voice slurred over the words, his accent thicker than usual. “Bo. Do you hear me? Come on out. We'll go get Tam.”
There was a sound of movement from inside the cell: bare feet on cement. The girl looked like someone who had been gagged for two rest shifts, and done a stint in the arena between, waiting for the doors to open. She stared at Sam, at Kimble, with hollow eyes. The chain collar round her throat looked too heavy for her.
“Good girl,” Sam said. “Come on. Come with us. We'll get Tam out. You tell her there's nothing to worry about. I'm Sam. This is Richard.” He turned down the corridor, and Kimble went with him, not far: past one locked door, on to another.
“There's no one in that cell,” Sam said, glancing back: the girl had followed them a few steps. She stood still, staring at them, unwashed hair a tangle, her skin bruised with dirt, wearing only a grubby t-shirt and shorts. “I'm not leaving anyone locked up, Bo.” He raised his hand again. Kimble had the numbers down, but Sam repeated them again, out loud, and stepped back as the door clicked open.
“Tam. Bo's here,” Sam said. “Come out. We're not going to hurt you.”
There was a pause. Kimble glanced back: the girl from the first cell was a few steps closer.
“Bo,” Sam said. “Tell Tam. Come out. I've got to let you all out, then you can go have a wash, and something to eat. Tam. Come on out.”
It seemed to take longer – and Bo said not a word – but the sound of bare feet and a whisper of breath, and another girl appeared: under the dirt and the fear, she had a clear, classic beauty, striking enough to give Kimble a moment's pause. She looked at them with a rigid jaw and wide eyes. The collar was the same as the other girl's: it looked grotesque on her.
“Good girl,” Sam said. “Come on. I've got Emma and Stephanie to let out as well. They're here too. Tam, this is Richard, I'm Sam. You and Bo take care of each other, now.”
Kimble knew this corridor: not as memory but as something in his flesh. Sam's voice was thick and weary, and he was leaning on Kimble more and more: the two girls followed as if they were trailing on a leash. This was the cell he had been locked in. He was sddenly certain, like a cold weight in his stomach, that Sam intended to shut him in here again.
“Emma's in this cell,” Sam said. He seemed to be talking to the girls. “Richard,” he added, and raised his hand to the keypad.
Once more – Sam said the numbers out loud – Kimble used his fingers to unlock the door. The smell that came out was worse: stale vomit as well as the other odours of human caging.
“Emma,” Sam said. “Come on out.”
The girl was differently dressed, jeans and blouse, but barefoot like the other two girls – and she wore no collar.
She stared at Sam, at Richard, and lifted her chin. Her voice held a strained control. “I'm a minor. I want to call my father. Kevin Channing. I'm his daughter.”
“Yeah,” Sam said. He was leaning on Richard. “Yeah, I know. Hold that thought, girl, I have got to let your friend Stephanie out, too.”
“She's here?” The girl's voice broke. She had been crying: the tears resurfaced.
“Yeah, of course she is,” Sam said. He started to move towards the next cell. “I'm Sam, this is Richard, and you know who these two are.”
“Tam,” Emma said. She looked past the beautiful girl doubtfully. “Bo?”
“Mistress,” the beautiful girl said, on a whisper.
Kimble hardly glanced back: he heard the three girls talking – Emma more loudly than the other two, whose voices could barely be heard – but he could feel how unsure of his footing Sam was, could feel the chill of his skin.
They did the fourth door. “Stephanie,” Sam said, as the smell washed out at them.
The fourth girl didn't say anything at first. She stared past Sam and Kimble, to where the three other girls stood, her mouth open: her lips looked dry and crusty. She swallowed hard, twice. “Where are we? What day is this?” Her voice was barely a croak.
“It's Wednesday,” Sam said. “You're safe. You're all safe. No one's going to hurt you. When was the last time you had a drink?”
“I don't remember,” the girl said, hoarsely. She swallowed again. “Safe?”
“Yeah. Don't worry about a thing. Richard. Andiamo.” They moved – and the girls moved after them, a broken necklace with bodies instead of beads – back to the door into the safe side of the house. The door opened: Sam propped himself against the door jamb and Kimble held the door wide. The four girls went through between them. “Okay,” Sam said. “Upstairs, there's bathrooms and clothes – help yourself to anything you find. Stephanie, if you drink too much too fast you'll be sick, drink a little at a time, okay? Come downstairs when you're ready, there'll be food. Do any of you know how to fire a gun?”
There was silence for a moment. The two uncollared girls looked at each other, shaking their heads minutely. The beautiful girl said after a moment. “I do... sir.”
“Tam!” Emma said, sounding startled.
“Master Channing was having me trained as a bodyguard,” the girl said. “I – wasn't supposed to tell you, Mistress.”
“Okay,” Sam said. “Good. That's good. Richard.” He looked at Kimble. “Open up my jacket, get my gun out, hand it to the young lady who can shoot.”
Kimble bent forward. It felt strange, with the consciousness of the four young women staring at him, to undo Sam's clothing. Stranger to have his hands on a gun. He had not held one in five years. He had forgotten how heavy a handgun could be. The girl who had said she could shoot held both her hands out for it, but she too looked surprised by the weight.
“Don't fire it unless you have to,” Sam said. “It could break your hand. You shouldn't have to. We're the only people in the house. There's guns more your weight in the armoury, but you can keep that for now. Clear?”
“Go. Go. Richard. We've got one more thing to do.”
There was a flight of stairs, but Sam sat down on the third step. His hands were out in front of him. He bent his head. “Jesus, I'm tired.”
Kimble stood uneasily. After a moment, as Sam did not move or speak, he said “I don't understand.”
“I'm goddam tired,” Sam said, his voice grating and all but expressionless. “Just give me a minute.”
“You're in shock,” Kimble said.
Sam looked up, apparently with surprise. “I am?” He shook his head. “I don't have time for this. My office is just up the stairs. I've got to – ” His voice trailed off. “I've got to,” he said finally, without any expression at all in his voice. “You'll need to help me. It's not far.”
It was the root of nightmares: a shabby working office, looking as shockingly normal as it had this morning, the walls narrowed by battered metal filing cabinets, the desk crowded with papers and files, the desk and chair black and scarred. Kimble ducked his head, looking down at the carpet, worn in shiny stripes where Sam's chair had rolled across it. He could feel how hard that carpet was to his knees.
“Richard. Sit down. This isn't fingerprinted. Don't try to kid me you don't know how to use a computer.”
Sam was standing behind him. Kimble sat down. He half expected to feel Sam's hands descending on his shoulders, and Sam's voice saying Richard belongs to me. But of course Sam couldn't rest his hands anywhere. He glanced back in time to see Sam fold downwards to sit on the floor: not a fall, a kind of deliberate collapse. Sam tilted his head back. “Open a command window,” he said.
Kimble followed Sam's step by step instructions: a line of code that half made sense, another that followed it. “It's asking for a password.”
“Yeah. Key this: one, lower case n, cap b, zero, then all lower case: c, c, a, a, one, one, u, p, zero. You need to echo it in the next field.” Sam repeated the string, his voice hitting each character distinctly and clearly. The window closed and re-opened:
Are you sure?
“Tell it yes,” Sam said. His eyes were shut. His skin looked grey.
Are you really sure?
“Enter the password again,” Sam said. He spelled it out. The third time through Kimble got it.
Start process Y/N?
“Tell it yes,” Sam said.
The window closed. Nothing else seemed to happen. The door clicked suddenly, and Sam looked up. “That's it,” he said.
“That was the code to open all the locks and shut down all the defenses,” Sam said. He leaned his head back against the wall. “You and the girls can get out now. You don't need my fingerprints. You should let the girls take my car: you can have the van.”
“I don't understand,” Kimble said again.
“Don't you?” Sam's voice was distant, level. “The vehicle keys are in that drawer.” He lifted his hand slowly and pointed. “There's one that should unlock the girls' collars, too. There are guns in the armoury. You're free to go. I don't need you any more. Welcome to the revolution.”
“You said that before.”
“I've been conspiring to overthrow the USNA government,” Sam said. “We have. The US Marshals service. The Secret Service was in on it, too. To overthrow the government and free all the slaves. We started this afternoon. You were the early warning system. I'm done. That's all.” He closed his eyes again. “I'm so fucking tired,” he said again, so quietly Kimble hardly heard him.
to In The Mouth of the Wolf