Monday, October 17, 2011

Rise of Rebel, Part 4, Subjugation

If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.
- Abraham Lincoln

It had been impossible to adjust, being looked at like meat, like a dumb, obedient dog. Crammed in the tight quarters with the rest of the chained circles of slaves. Weeks and then months ground by, each second worse than the last. To some extent I felt bad for my behavior then, but I never knew what it would lead to. I resisted the guards, preventing our purchase because of my struggles. Growled at the interested buyers, scared them away. Slaves who came in after us were bought before us, Ammarian Holders and other "decent" slavers (according to Bulkar at least) left us alone like we carried a plague. Most didn't have to come close when inspecting the slave groups to know I was the problem, the guards let them know, and started showing us off to the worst of an already bad lot.

Rozor was the first to snap. I let his fists rain on me, wishing, hoping he would hit something vital that the guards missed, and put me out of this life. Without a family, without my family, I was nothing. Worth nothing, beaten, shunned, I sat outside the circle, but still chained to it. I slipped further and further into a depression unlike any I had faced. There would not be such an easy escape from this life.

Rozors beating did what the guard hadn't. Buyers kept coming through, and at some point I was too weak, too tired to make a stand anymore, to care anymore. We were purchased by some Angel Cartel toughs, the fact that we were simple labor seemed to meet their requirements, that we were all so beaten down, I'm sure that didn't hurt. By then I had lost weight and any muscle I had. They shocked, beat and collared us with electric collars for control on the journey through the smuggler gates of eve. The slight lurch in my stomach at each jump was the only thing that let me count the jumps, 33, to our destination. If that was in a straight line, or just a route to avoid customs....

The ship we were in rumbled into a rough dock and we were shuffled off the ship like so much cattle. Pushed and prodded still, we made our way to the small casino in the middle of the outpost. As the toughs took their payments for delivery to the casino's tables, we were taken by a new set of grim and humorless overlords, assigned menial jobs as if we were not there, in area's we had no idea how to get to. Then taken and beaten until we "learned some respect for our new masters." 

There was no escape, the outpost was isolated in dead space, that forbidden zone between civilization and the dark of space that somehow managed to be neither. It around then that with a final sickening hurt I knewI had been broken, and I worked as if my life depended on it, the deep dark depression now turning into something darker, something that made me want to excel at what they asked me to do, as if that would convince them to save me. I hated myself for it, but couldn't help it, I lived, I rejoined my brother slaves as another to their ranks. It was around then that a new leader of the facility, Thomas, showed up. He must have been the son, or cousin, of someone powerful in the Cartel. Power radiated off him like so much heat and the deference the guards gave him stunk of connections.

He took joy in "training the slaves personally." There was nothing any of us could do, right or wrong, to be spared. During the day we worked like janitors, cleaning up the aftermaths of parties, unloading stores from ships and slaughters when fights broke out. 

Uldrik had been the first to get a taste of the pain doled out by Thomas like candy. Our group was one of few on the casino, all broken men, scared of the fist, of the glance of the guards, or the bite of their discipline. It wasn't enough control for Thomas, he desired more. His men came to the small quarters the five of us shared, pressing the rag that passed as our door to the side for Thomas. He stepped in and looked us over, thumbing a single six sided die between his palm and thumb. The game, as it were, was explained to us, slowly, deliberately. He would roll a single six sided die. If he rolled a six he said, "Then I'll move on, all nice-like." At first you start out hoping for a six. This time I was a five, he rolled a two.

Uldrik was pulled from the room, wet smacks and thuds the only sounds we could hear. I cried, wishing it was me instead, that his pain was my fault, if only I had gotten us sold sooner...

Uldrik was deposited back in the room, bleeding from the eyes and ears, we did our best to cover for him, but he was never quite the same. He lost hearing in his right ear, his right eye kept a deep red hue. It was then that we started talking of escape, of some kind of life where Thomas, where these Angel thugs wouldn't own us anymore. Dreams of lost freedom. Foolish dreams.

Desperate hopes for men trapped deep inside dead space, in some system they didn't even know the name of. Some claim planning escape is almost as important as completing it, but planning for escape, for freedom, is false hope if there is no real chance of it. Bulkar had been the hardest to convince of the need to plan, but then of course we weren't with his precious god-fearing Amarr, who would "never let this kind of treatment of slaves stand." We were with the heartless Angles, we thanked their lack of toxins to control us. Physically, psychologically, it didn't matter.

Thomas had been initially sated by the damage he caused on the slaves. He still trained the guards how to "handle" us better. Their beatings were brutal, more so than before, but at least Thomas left us alone.

We didn't expect it to last; it didn't last. 

He came back, with the same die, only changing our numbers, he had a knack of finding the weakest of us each time. Bulkar came back with ragged, lazy knife cuts across his chest, mumbling incoherently to himself, it took weeks before he made sense or even spoke to the rest of us again. Rozor was next, his pinky fingers and small toes broken and splinted and then re-broken. The pain was to remind him of the grace that Thomas left him alive each day. It was weeks before he was allowed to get the nanobot medical injections to help heal his toes, his pinkies still turned at crooked angles to the rest of his hand. Rozor remained defeated, but still somehow defiant through all of it, drawing from some central core strength I wish I had. Somewhere along the line I stopped wishing for a six, and just wished for anything but my number.

My turn was next. Thomas strode in, and told me I was number four. Blind, callous hope spread through my body, four had never showed up on the die before, I was hoping to be spared. Then die stubbornly rolled to a stop on four, laying between us, slaves and master. Thomas looked unsurprised and his guards took me into the hall. I should have resisted, should have fought, but I walked meekly along with them.

He stood there, staring at me for a long time, and did nothing. I, in turn, stared at the ground, feeling his eyes on my head. His guards pushed me to the ground and Thomas stood over me, as if gloating, looking down at me as I knelt. I felt something deep inside of me stir, but I wasn't sure what, it was deeper than the fear, the depression, even hate, the sensation seemed somehow familiar, I knew it, but couldn't remember the name of the feeling. It rose as the moments crept by, I suddenly knew that it was hope, hope that this was all he needed from me, that maybe the others had been defiant, deserving in their beatings, that I was safe. I clung to it as the last emotion I had. 

Then blows came. Only after the hope was pounding in my chest. His sharp, hard kicks and knee's to my chest, compressed the air out of me explosively, and he never stopped for a instant, letting me feel each blow and creak as my chest took each blow. I kept my eyes closed, unable to take a breath, taking kick after kick, each one twisting that hope inside of me, driving it into my heart more effectively than any toxin could, cutting me open far more effectively than any knife. I started hoping that each blow would be the last, that I would live and serve just to avoid one more kick, one more knee...

When he was done, when we were done, I would have thanked him for stopping, for each breath, if I could have spoken. I had tears running down my cheeks, I remembering wanting to thank him for stopping, as if he couldn't stop before then, as if he did me a favor for beating the hope out of me at all. I spat out mouthfuls of blood from the gouges my teeth had taken out of my cheeks, but the tears were of happiness, I had deserved it, he was right to punish me. He had taken that brief hope and turned it into a twisted kind of fear, obedience. I'm not sure what my injuries were, I coughed up blood for weeks, my chest ached for months more.

Thomas never returned for Kolf, he didn't need to. Broken in spirt now, our quaint little escape plans were just the feeble mess that hoped for a empty container and deep dark space.

The exact spot we found ourselves now.

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