“Let me out of here!” I yell for what could be the millionth time. My cries fall on deaf ears, and ring throughout the endless hallway.
My ignored plea mingles with the horse cries of others, but some have already stopped yelling. Those people have already made peace with themselves; they have already subjected themselves to what's awaiting them.
The guard closest to me keeps walking with the same stoic expression he’s had for hours. Immune to what's happening around him; perfectly find to watch people suffer and pay the price of doing what it takes to survive on this planet. His piercing blue eyes are stuck on staring into the distance, his boots making a slapping sound on the cold, metal floor.
I huff out a forced breath, laughing silently to myself at how stupid I am to get caught. The cold metal soothes me as I lay my head against it, my raven black hair creating a curtain around my head; my own little cocoon. I close my moss green eyes, wishing I was anywhere else. But wishing is for children, I learned that lesson long ago.
My hands come up to grip the bars so hard they turn my olive skin white. I wish I had my crescent moon ring. It is something everyone got after completing their first mission when you joined the Crescent Crew. Sometimes it is a necklace, a broach, a bracelet, earrings, I got my ring when I was 14. The guards snatchedit from me when they took my clothes and weapons after they caught me committing the petty crime of pick pocketing.It’s one of my many skills and enjoyments. For when they finally realize what happened to them, the look of utter shock upon their face is priceless.
We stole mostly valuable metals like Titanium Ore and whatever we didn’t use or sell for money we gave to the poor. We were kind of like one of the characters from an old story my grandmother once told me. The story was about a person named Robin Hood, he was an outlaw who stole from the rich and gave to the poor.
I look up and count a dozen guards patrolling the hall. Turning around I start pacing parallel to the bars, only able to take seven steps before the grimy, cold, metal walls force me to turn around. I bend down to grab the bottom of my starched, standard orange jumpsuit. My whole-body stiff from not being able to exercise in this meager space. Gripping my right pant leg with both sides I rip a piece of course orange fabric off my pant leg. Standing back up, I use the ruff fabric to tie my curly liquid black hair at the base of my neck to keep it out of my eyes.
I walk to the corner opposite of the area that I think is meant to be the bathroom. Plopping down on the grimy ruff floor that smells of mold. I recline against the metal wall and the noise fades away into the background.I steady my breathing as I try to think of a plan.
Lost in deep thought, I almost don’t hear the door next to me open and close with a resounding click. The pounding sound of footsteps that echo through the long corridor of the abundant prison cells,or the sound of an old metal cart with its wheels squeaking from old age. It reminds me of the shopping carts people used before the Great Extinction on Earth; before we had to relocate to the moon. Everything about this planet is reused or recycled, just like the air and water here.
The guard wears a crisp, tight fit, all gray uniform andover that, a black military jacket with pockets, strapped to his side is a sleek, silvern handgun. On his right sleeve towards the top, stitched in silver, is the military symbol of a crescent moon overlapping the Earth. The guards still use some aspects from the Olden Age, like the clothing and weapons.
His chocolate brown eyes stare into my cell as he withdraws the key from a ring on his belt with a soft clink as its inserted the door. His calloused, pale hands pull out one of the trays from the cart. He opens my cell door a few feet, then slides the tray towards me on the metal cell floor. It stops a foot away from me, as he shoves the door closed with a bang and continues to the next cell repeating the same process. I look down at the tray.A closed Styrofoam container, ,it looks exactly like one of those generic takeout boxes. Gingerly I open the lid, the Styrofoam squishing between my fingers and causing my cell to fill with a squeaky noise as I stare at the contents of the box.
Food, or what I can only suppose is food, sits mashed up in a blob with hints of red, orange, and purple littered throughout it. Probably some type of vegetable or root that grows in one of the many specialized greenhouses we have. Next to it is some type of dried, dark green substance with specks of black and white scattered on top of it. My guess is that it's some type of spice, though I would be surprised if they even bothered to season our food. Slowly I bring a suspicious blob up to eye level and inspect it one more time before I try to satisfy my grumbling stomach.It’s a prison after all, you can never be too careful.
Now that I think of it, dying from food poisoning or a toxic substance would be better the rotting in prison. I’d probably die anyway from eating this every day. Waiting to be sentenced either to years in prison or death. There is no concept of time down here because I’m underground and there are no windows. At least when you’re In the city the sky dome mimics the daylight cycle of the Earth. I’m also pretty sure the guards never serve meals at the same time every day, or in the same quantity. For all I know this could be the only meal I have today or tonight.
Without giving my mind any more chances to think, I shove the dried food into my mouth, little pieces landing on the scratchy fabric of my jumpsuit. I instantly regret it as my mouth is set on fire by what I can only guess is huge amounts of salt and pepper. My nose burns and I start sneezing, making me cover my mouth with my hand so food doesn’t go flying everywhere.
I realize now that they didn’t give us any water or utensils, probably just to spite us. I bend over and start coughing, my spit hitting the ground mixed with little grains of black and white. I glance up at the only other option I have left. Reaching forward with my olive-skinned hand, I dip my pointer finger into the blob of food and shove it into my mouth before I can think. My mouth is met with the taste of nothing, just a bland blob sitting on my tongue. I swallow it quickly and take a deep breath as it soothes my tastebuds. I dip two fingers into the mashed food this time and am met with more relief.
Now that my mouth is not on fire anymore, I take a second and listen. In a few of the cells, I can hear people coughing as it echoes down the hall. In other cells it's completely, utterly, silent, because they knew, they knew to eat the two foods together. I guess those people have been here for such a long time they have come accustomed to eating food like this. I feel no hope for how long I could be stuck here, rotting away. Reaching over I grab the Styrofoam box that this disgusting meal came in and rip off a piece of the lid. I use it as a spoon and get to work on fishing the rest of my food without trying to vomit.
I shovel another bite onto my makeshift spoon, but this time I hit something hard in it. Curious, I stick my finger into the blob and it collides with a hard, solid object. I fish it out and hold it up in front of my face. It looks like the key the guard used to open my cell when he delivered my food. The only difference is that this one is caked in food. I know the second I start wiping it off on the pant leg of my jumpsuit and see the worn-out metal.The Crescent Crew found me a way out; I will escape. That’s one rule that they taught us in training, we take care of our family, our own.
With the key clutched tightly in my fist, I head over to the door and press my face against the metal until it stings. I look out into the hallway and try to access the best way of getting out of here alive. I see fewer guards out in the hallway compared to when they delivered the food. That either means it's nighttime and the other guards are resting, or they are doing another changing of the guard and I am running out of time.The timing is perfect, everything will be in a disarray, so no one will notice an empty cell until it's too late.
I won’t be able to get out of here without the Holo Maps that the guards you to navigate their way around. It's a silver cuff that goes on your wrists, and has a dot for each guard there is. If I can get my hands on one of those I can get out of here.
I only see a couple of guards at the end of the hallway to my left and non to my right which is the way I’m going. I push both of my hands out through two of the bars, I use one hand to hold the door in place. While my right hand holds the key, slides it into the lock and twists until it pops open. I start to open it farther, but then I hear the pounding sound of footsteps coming from around the corner. So, I do the logical thing, I freeze.
The person comes around the corner and I am surprised to see it’s a girl. She looks young for a guard, but not memorable. Plain, straight hair the color of the dirt,with big blue eyes like the artificial sky doom in the daytime. She is short and gangly like a plant that’s still growing, probably a little shorter than my height of 5’5. She wears the same moon colored uniform with a night black military jacket just like the other guards but in a slimmer cut.
As she walks down the hall in her shiny black, knee-height boots, she looks down at her hollo map on her wrist. A new recruit, no less, still learning how to navigate the prison. My cell door creaks as I try to close it, and I silently curse myself.
She glances up towards my cell and I can tell the moment she comprehends what's happening. It's like when the rich people realize they have been robbed, except a little different.They share the utter look of shock, but there is fear on her porcelain face, like prey that’s been caught.I bet she wished she had a gun right now, as I spring out of the door, my thin prison-issued sneakers slapping against the ground.
Before she can say a word or scream, I’m there. Punching her in the face multiple times and knocking her unconscious. She crumples to the ground and her head hits the floor with a bang. I shake out my hand as a small trickle of blood starts to bleed from her paletemple. I feel bad that it had to be her, but I didn’t have a choice. I know people say there is always a choice, but that’s not true.
I don’t have to figure out what to do with her body because I have an idea. I grip both of her arms and start to pull her towards my cell. Thankfully she not that heavy, making it easy to drag her, and I run into no guards.I lay her down on the ground and start switching clothes with her.
I start by pulling the military jacket off her body one pale arm at a time to take the jacket off her, I unbutton her shirt and slip it off her. After that, I get to work pulling off her knee-length black boots by unbuckling the three buckles on each one. The straps are still tight and haven’t yet loosen up from use. I grab one boot with my olive hands and tug hard until it comes loose. I repeat the process to the other shoe until I have two boots sitting next to me. Her pants are the last thing to come off. This time a lay her body flat on the floor and unbutton them, and slide them off her slim legs.
I make quick work of unbuttoning my jumpsuit and pulling it down to my hips. I then slip on her shirt, still warm from her wearing It.It pulls taunt across my chest, but the black fabric is softer than the course jumpsuit. The black jacket goes on next, and fits me better than the shirt, but the sleeves several inches too short. But no one will notice that after I zip the military jacket up to cover up the shirt. Next comes the gray pants that fit me perfectly.The black boots fit snug to my feet when I pull them on and redo the buckles. The comfy padding is a nice change from the old prison-issued sneakers. Now I can’t feel all the little crevices and indents in the metal which is good. I make sure to grab the Hollo Cuff and secure it on my wrist with a snap.
Now fully in disguise, I do one last thing before leaving my cell. Picking up my discarded jumpsuit I head back over to the girl and start putting in on her. It’s the least I can do. I slip one gangly arm at a time into the jumpsuit after I finish putting her legs in. Buttoning up half of the buttons on it, then I rip off both pant legs. I rip those pieces into smaller strips and use them to tie off her hand, feet, and then I tie a piece around her mouth. Using the last strip I bind her head injury with it to make sure no more blood leaks out.
I dress in the girl's uniform, I stand and quickly make my way back to the door. I glance back one more time at the girl before stepping out of the cell and closing it quietly. I look down both halls and see only a couple of guards walking in the opposite direction of me.
Looking at my wrist and start fiddling with the hollo map trying to turn it on. Getting frustrated at it, I slap It. The screen lights up and I have to look away for a moment not used to the brightness of the light anymore because of how dim it is down here. I look back down at the screen seeing words like clock, time, and other things on the screen as it flashes by. I push the map. A second later the map shows up on my wrists. I hit the button that says enlarge in the corner and a second later the screen expands into the air. Pulling up a 3-D holographic map of the whole prison with little red blinking dots for each guard in the prison.
I start to walk to the right, the opposite direction the guards are going. I try to not run. I look down at the map, taking another sharp right at the next turn. My feet hitting the guard harder and harder as I push myself to walk faster and faster. To the point where I'm not running, but I’m not walking either.
I glance back down at the map and take a left this time. I look to the side as I hurry past hundreds of cells and see people haggard and scared. People, so still they look like there died, maybe they have died. I can’t think about that, what could have happened to me if I gave up and subjected myself to a life in prison. I’d rather die.
Sparing a second to look at the map, I see four blinking red dots in the hallway I need to turn into next. Which is to the right. To the left, there is one guard, but I would have to take who knows how many turns to get myself on the right course again. I also have to consider the fact that I might run into more guards and have to fight them if they realize what I’m doing. The girl is probably already starting to wake up. She might even be awake already. My best chance is to go past the four guards, if I can make it past them, then the rest should be easy. It looks like I'm going down the right hallway.
I slow my pace down and straighten up to my full height, I throw my shoulders back and stare straight ahead. Transforming myself into what a guard would look like. Quickly I take my makeshift hair tie down so that my black coffee-colored hair. It lays against my back in dirty knots, my fingers run through it rapidly. Pulling against my sensitive scalp every time I hit a knot, and then ripping my fingers through it. My nimble fingers pull my hair back and gather it at the base of my neck, twisting the hair back into a bun at the base of my neck. I use the piece of fabric to tie it and tuck the rest of the orange fabric into the bun so no one will notice it.
I continue walking reaching the corner. I silently hold my breath waiting for someone to yell “Get her,” as I start walking down the hall. I stare straight ahead, too scared to look anywhere else. Seeing the guards march down the hall towards me, one of them holds an old man prisoner with handcuffs. His head hung, with salt and pepper hair, his frame sagging, a bag of bones out most. His skin waxen in color like the old page of a book. There's only one thing they could be doing with an old prisoner. They're marching him to his death.
I have to look away and look anywhere else to spare myself from the sight. The soldiers wear the same generic uniform that everyone else wears down here, including me. The solder that walks beside his associate has a pasty kind of complexion and dull features. Older than the man next to him, with a small reddish beard that makes it look like he hasn’t shaved in some time. His hair is auburn, like the trees on Earth when they were starting to change color in a season called fall. As I get closer to the trio of men, I notice that the older man squints in the dim lighting. Making cresses show up on his aging face and dull features.
Next to him is the one holding the man, his stature young, but fit. With tan muscular arms, eyes the color of the ocean, and liquid black hair. He has a sharp jaw, his nose crooked like it has been broken before. A certain glint in his eye that tells me he thirsts for violence, the kind of person that hearts people just for the enjoyment of it.
The young soldier holding the haggard, dying man shoves him harshly. So hard that his skinny legs give out and hit the Metallica floor with a bang. He cries out in pain and starts to sub, mumbling that he innocent and calling out the name grace. Probably the name of his wife. He crumbles to the ground like a knocked over card tower.
“Get up!” The younger soldier yells at him, and when the old man doesn’t, he precedes to kick him in the ribs. Causing more cries of anguish to spill from the man's mouth and into the echoey hallway. The man curls into a ball on the cold floor where a puddle of blood starts to pull.
The younger soldier continues yelling at the poor, old man to get, and every time he doesn’t another kick in delivered into the dying man. I walk past them quickly because I can’t bear to watch, but then I hear the sickening sound of something breaking. I turn around and look back to see the man is soaked in blood, his orange jumpsuit stained with the color with it. That’s when I break.
“Stop!” I yell, turning around I sprint and run-in until I'm standing with my back to the man on the floor. Using my body as a barrier between the two men. The two guards look at me, one puzzled, the other so angry his face his beet red. Their stares are unnerving to the point where I can even feel the stare of the man I am defending.
I regret my decision as the younger guard laughs in my face. For some reason, he doesn’t think I serious. “Get out of my way.” Is all he says to me.
“No,” I say the words like it obvious. I have taken my stand, I cannot back down now, and leave the old man to suffer at the hands of someone who will inflict pain for the pleasure of it. Of course, I don’t say these words to his face no matter how much I want to.
“What did you say?” He says it so harshly I cringe. He stares down at me to the point that I look away.
“I said, leave him alone.” My voice is firm to the point that it even surprises me. I need to fix this quickly, but I can’t let them hurt than old man anymore.
I bring my eyes back up to look him in the face. I notice he has a little scar on the bottom of his chin. The cut old but scarred to the point where it will never heal fully. I have many of those but not all of them are physical scars.
Then he shoves me, my quick reflexes acting in the nick of time. I don’t fall flat on my butt, but I do lose my balance, taking a second to get it back.
“He is a prisoner. A criminal of the law. He is paying the price just like everyone else when you break the rules around here. Do you have a problem with that?” He spits the words out like he swallowed something distasteful.
I start to say no, the answer he wants to hear. But I change my mind because I will not apologize to someone who enjoys the act of violence.
“Yes, I do,” My voice does not waver as I say this. “Hurting a man by kicking him in the stomach several times is not right. Even though he is a criminal, did you ever bother to find out what he is in for? For all you know he stole a loaf of bread to feed his family. Just like half of the people in this prison. He is going to die soon anyway. So why are you putting him through more pain than he deserves?” It comes out in a rush. His face turning another shade red every second that another word spills out of my mouth. But not the embarrassment kind of red, the angry kind.
“Aleric, be nice to the girl. She obviously a new recruit.” I startle as he says that. I entirely forgot he is there; he is so quiet. The older man says as if he were scolding a naughty child. I store the information about his name away for later. You never know when stuff like that could be useful.
“Shut up, Jason.” Is the only reply the man, Jason receives. He does not look startled for being talked to in such a tone. On the contrary, he looks used to being spoken to in such a manner by someone who has no regard for human life.
It comes so quickly that I almost don’t see his calloused, tan hand come up and slap me across the face. My head swing to the side as his hand makes contact with my face. My head swivels to the side, that for a second I think my neck might break. I look back at him in shock, but considering his history it shouldn’t be all the surprising. I do not cry, because I have endured pain worse than this.
“You do not tell me what to do little girl,” Aleric says, I tenderly lift my hand to my face. I can already feel it start to swell, and I bet it’s a bright, puffy red.
Aleric starts to move past as I carefully hold my hand to my face. I barely notice what I’m doing as I stick my leg out into his path. I watch as he trips over it and falls flat on his face like a pancake. He pulls himself up from the floor quickly and turns to look at me with murderous ocean-colored eyes.
I realize now that there is nothing I can do to help the old man. I can only take care of myself and try to escape. All I am doing now is prolonging this man’s death. It is inevitable no matter what.
I turn around and do the only thing that comes naturally for me. I run. Just like I’ve run away from everything that scares me in my life. That when I stop running everything will catch up with me, and it will destroy me.
I can hear him scream at me from down the hallway. “You will regret this, you little wretch!” I don’t dare turn back as I continue to run away.
I can hear what I presume is Alaric's pounding footsteps as he sprints after me. The defining sound of footsteps as people run towards us to see what is happening. I do not doubt that the girl I knocked out has woken up. She has probably already been found, and the guards are not coming to see what all the commotion is. They are coming to arrest me, again. And then they will kill me.
I reach the end of the hallway, but I don’t look down at my map cuff. I can’t even think about what direction I need to go next. Mindlessly I turn to the left, all my energy focused on pushing myself faster and faster. My feet moving so quickly it's all in a blur. I hear their thunderous footsteps and know they're close. I’m running out of time.
My feet meet air right before my face collides with worn-out metal. I scream, but it's it adsorbed by the floor. I feel like I'm suffocating, my windpipe being crushed by the person I can only guess is Aleric. His elbow digs into my boney back, his hand snaking around my throat like a snake. It gets hard to breath, I start to gasp for breath and hypervalent. Black spots dance behind my eyes as the world starts to fade into murky darkness.
Suddenly, I hear the wheezing breaths of a person as they get closer. The cry of agony as something collides with the person who is trying to choke me. Breath is instantly restored into my lungs as a tremendous weight disappears from on top of me. I feel my body being rolled over by withered, gentle hands. My eyes sting as I open them and am met with a face staring down at me, blocking out the fluorescent lighting from above.
It takes me a second to realize that it is Jason, the other guard who works with Aleric. It is he who rolled me over and he is probably the one who got Aleric off me. He frowns down at me as I look up at him. A puzzled expression crosses my face right before I hear the click of metal as my hands are shackled in chains.
I hear a deep, booming voice call out from somewhere. “Cyra Hale. Prisoner 29601. You are hereby under arrest, again. For not only robbery, the destruction of government property, and bodily harm. But for the death of soldier Rayna Cyprus. The penalty, Death.”