|janecarnall (janecarnall) wrote,|
@ 2009-05-08 09:27:00
|Entry tags:||keptverse, mouth of the wolf, my fanfic|
In The Mouth Of The Wolf: Part 1
(This was the sixth part of "End Game".)
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), The Pieces (seven parts), and End-Game (5 parts).
The story may be regarded as fanfic set in poisontaster's Keptverse. There is a species of cast list here.
To overthrow the government. To free all the slaves.
Kimble sat still. Sam's hands drooped from his wrists: he looked grey and flattened. He was going into shock: the local anaesthetic would wear off, and then he would be in agony. The burns were open wounds: left alone, they'd get infected. Amputation, or death, would follow.
You're free to go.
Kimble stood up. From the window, he could see the wall: the wall that killed. He wasn't wearing a convict collar. He was chipped, like any slave, but he had no collar. He could cross the wall – even if Sam was lying about the locks, he could get out somehow, without a collar – he could climb the wall and go –
Chuck Nichols had tried to buy him for the cages. Any of the senior consultants at Chicago Memorial would have signed for him. Any of them.
Kimble looked down at Sam's hands. Sam had put his hands round Kimble's neck. If not, the collar that had burned Sam's hands would have burned Kimble's throat: might have killed him. The death he had expected from the wall.
The chip under his skin, below the shoulder-blades, the freeze-brand on his shoulder. Any time he was seen naked, or he walked through a scanner, he would be known to be a slave: and any detailed scan would tell anyone he was a convict. Welcome to the revolution. It was insane. Commerce would act. The military would be sent in. No one could free slaves. No one could overthrow the American government.
For a few days, If he was careful, if he didn't go through any scanners, he could go free. Then he would be found and he would be killed. Runaways were killed. The girls they had just let out, two of them must be runaways. They'd be killed, soon.
No one's going to hurt you. Kimble wondered if they had believed Sam: though they had obeyed him. He had obeyed him.
Be my hands. Kimble stared down at Sam's hands. Breathe.
“Where's the clinic?”
Sam's eyes didn't open. His voice was a tired, monotone mumble. “Find it yourself. Just down the hall.”
Kimble reached down and took hold of Sam's arms, above the wrists. Sam's eyes jerked open and he stared at Kimble, without saying anything.
“You can't fight me,” Kimble said. He got a vicious satisfaction out of saying it. “There's no point in fighting me.” He braced himself, and pulled: Sam came to his feet without more than a moment's resistance.
Sam's eyes were wide and dark. His mouth was inches away from Kimble's. He was smiling, humourlessly, the familiar gargoyle grin. He said nothing, but Kimble saw him swallow. His gaze did not flinch from Kimble's: his skin still felt cold to the touch.
Kimble had lain naked in bed beside him, and felt those ruined hands explore him, known he could not flinch from that cold assessing look. Sam stood helpless in his hands.
Kimble shook his head. The warmth of vicious satisfaction was slipping away. He couldn't bring himself to say “I'm not going to hurt you,” but he couldn't bring himself to accomplish even the small cruelty he'd wanted, of not telling a hurt and helpless man what he was going to do. “I'm going to take you to the clinic and dress your hands,” Kimble said out loud, trying to keep his voice steady.
Sam almost shrugged: Kimble could feel his wrists move, slightly, as his arms shifted a little in Kimble's grip. His look neither flinched nor altered. “Okay,” he said.
There were five examination couches in the clinic. Kimble got Sam to lie down on one of them, and pulled down the unfolding shelf: Sam could rest his wrists on that. The clinic was well-stocked and well-organised: Kimble looked through the supplies, finding what he needed easily. The top drawer of the painkiller stack was labelled “Bullets”, and Kimble ignored it: the Vicodin was shelved below that, for when the local stopped working. The ampules the worker had given Sam –
in the white room, with the crowd baying outside the doors
– Kimble caught himself, and shuddered. That hadn't happened. He hadn't been in the white room since Sam bought him.
He came back to the couch and laid what he needed out. The couch was fitted with IV equipment, and the clinic's stores had plenty of bags of saline with glucose to treat fluid loss and shock. This was as good as anything available at the arena, for slaves who were meant to live. There should have been a supervisor to tell him how long he could take over this victim: what supplies he could use: whether he was meant to try to repair or simply do a patch that would hold till the next shift.
There was no one: only Sam. It was oddly peaceful, peacefully strange, to work with his hands on injuries that could be treated, damage that could be fixed, without any orders or threats. These were deep burns, as wide or wider as a convict collar, as if Sam had been branded.
Kimble went on working. His throat hurt. Fog was clearing. Sam had grabbed him round the throat, under the collar, with his hands. If the collar had been left to burn his throat, as it had burned Sam's hands, Kimble would have died.
Sam had saved his life.
Kimble had done all he could with these resources: a surgical team would do more. There was a good burns team at Chicago Memorial. They should go there. There were protective gloves, auto-inflatable, that would protect Sam's hands against accidental injury on the way over: Kimble slid them on, fastened them at the wrist, and flicked the button that would inflate the shell.
Sam stirred. He lifted himself up a little, looking down at his hands, and his voice when he spoke was without expression. “I can't take these off.”
“Don't,” Kimble said.
Sam said nothing. He looked back at Kimble. His mouth worked a little: he shook his head, after a moment, and lay down flat again. “Okay.”
Kimble stood still a moment, looking down. The expression on Sam's face was absolutely unfamiliar. But he wasn't saying anything, though his eyes were open. The bag feeding into his arm would take another five minutes or so to finish. Kimble began to clear up what he had used. Long ago this would have been an OR assistant's job, a slave's job. It still was.
There were restraints attached to the couch. Light steel manacles and chains. Kimble reached out to touch one, confirming he knew what he was seeing: the chill of the metal against his hand was familiar. He had used restraints like this, not long ago.
There were restraints attached to all five couches. Of course. This room had a purpose. The equipment had a purpose.
Kimble opened the drawer he had ignored, and found the bullets. Long silver ampules, protected from accidental use by a shielded trigger, their official name was longer, but everyone called them bullets. They didn't need to be used on a vein: injection anywhere on the body would work. They were painless – so it was said, though who could know? They were death.
This room was death. Kimble closed the drawer and turned round, to look at Sam.
I bought you so one of my team could use you for practice, eventually – work her up to interrogation to the death.
“In easy stages,” Kimble said out loud.
Sam turned his head, slightly, to look at Kimble. He did not speak, but Kimble heard his voice. I had you down as just a guy who'd killed his wife for the money.
Now you're no damn use to me.
I'm not keeping you around just to screw.
“I'd have died here,” Kimble said. “That girl. Willow. She was supposed to kill me.”
There was silence. After a moment, Sam rolled his head back to look up at the ceiling. He said nothing. Kimble came closer. “Here's where you kill runaways. Those girls. The ones you let out. You'd have killed them here.”
Sam's breath came out in a short sigh. He looked back at Kimble. “I was lying to you about Willow,” he said. “None of my kids would do that.”
Kimble took another step closer. Sam's whole body was tense, but he wasn't moving. He asked, abruptly, lifting his hands, “Why'd you do this?”
Kimble ran his tongue over the inside of his lips. Sam's voice made him flinch. He shook his head. “I couldn't stand looking at them,” he said. “When you screamed – We were in the white room. I should – you should have been killed. You won't be able to fight next time. I knew I couldn't help you. I wasn't in the white room, I know it, but every time I looked at your hands, I thought I was.” He swallowed, and the next words came out, thick through the buzzing in his head, “I could have sorted you back to the doors, if you had come to me.”
“Richard,” Sam said, his voice urgent through the fog. “Sit down.”
Kimble's legs folded under him. He was on the floor. His knees hurt. He put his hands up to feel the burn around his uncollared throat.
“Why did you save my life?” He wasn't even sure if he had said it out loud, but when he looked up, Sam was sitting on the edge of the couch, awkwardly, the IV line trailing from his arm.
“I wanted to,” Sam said. “I could do it because I wanted to. I saw you in the arena dorms, two years ago. I've been into every single mass storage facility for slaves in Northern Illinois in the past ten years, and I remember faces from every god damned one. I remembered your face. I don't know if many of people I remember are still alive. These are not good places, none of them are good places, they all run on death, Richard, there's not a one of them that doesn't reek of death. But you were one I remembered from those dorms. I knew you had to be dead, but when I was looking for a canary, I saw you were still alive. I got you out alive. I knew when I felt your collar burning that everything was going to change. I could do what I wanted.” He half-laughed, a sound unlike the grim chuckle Kimble knew. “I'm not sorry I can't send you to Commerce on Monday. They won't be taking deliveries Monday, and if they ever do again, they won't take anything from me.”
Kimble said nothing, but Sam said, as if Kimble had spoken, “Because if they win, they'll know what I did.” He grinned: it was like a shock from a taser baton, to see it, thin-lipped and humourless. “And if we win – I've sent a lot of people to Commerce. Some of them are probably still alive to testify. Once it began, I'm done. I could do what I wanted. And I wanted you to get out alive.” He said nothing for a minute, staring at Kimble, and said finally, “Even if you didn't want to.”
Kimble sucked in a breath, and swallowed. “I wanted...” he said out loud, in a voice that wavered. “I want...” Night after night, Sam had asked him what he wanted. Night after night, the same response. You're lying, Richard. Don't lie to me.
Helen's voice, when she was dying, shot and bludgeoned to death, faint and wavering. Alone and afraid and bewildered. Richard. Richard. He's trying to kill me.
After a little while, Kimble's mind wandering, he stood up again, and removed the IV line from Sam's arm. His hands knew the work. He saw Sam swallow, twice, as if he wanted to say something and changed his mind.
“Richard,” Sam said finally. “I showed you where the keys are, in my office? The van, my car, the key for the collars – you can find them?”
Sam had pointed. Had said something about vehicle keys and collars. “Yes, Sam,” Richard said.
“You take the van. Let the girls have my car. They came here in the van, they won't want to leave in it. Make sure they don't leave here without having something to eat, either. Take whatever you need.”
Kimble stared, lost in confusion. “When I drive you to the hospital?”
“What?” Sam stared back, looking profoundly startled. “What are you talking about, Richard?”
Kimble couldn't remember when he had made the decision, but it was clear enough to him that he was surprised Sam didn't see it too. “There was a good burns team at Chicago General. There probably still is. I can drive if you're in the car.” The room with the cages was in his mind, and would stay in his mind. And Chuck would be there, too.
“You can't be serious,” Sam said. He was grinning. “Go, get out of here. Vattene!”
Kimble stood still. He was looking at Sam from very close up. He could smell him, the sweat and the pain, the antiseptic Kimble had used, the odour of a wounded man. Kimble smiled, though his face felt distorted. “You don't have a choice,” he said. “You can't use your hands. I can.” He laughed, though it wasn't funny. “I'm not going to ask you.” Night after night, no matter what Kimble said, Sam had pushed him into the holding cell. “I don't care what you want.”
“All right,” Sam said. Gingerly, he stood up, his hand still on the couch. He looked at Kimble. His face was expressionless, and his voice was quiet. “All right,” he said. “Andiamo.”
To part 2