Avalanche – Snippet 59

This book should be available now so this is the last snippet.

Avalanche – Snippet 59

They were going to come after him with everything they had, and he would let them.  He would play the part, he would wring his hands and plead and in dark, public moments he would show flashes of something sinister that bubbled beneath the surface.  He would give them their villain, and let them reach closure when they ended him.  They needed it, and he needed her memory to live on – pristine, heroic, because that’s who she truly was.

So he moped, he paced around his cell, and he brooded, because that’s what they needed to see.  What they didn’t see was the preparation, the mental exercises and silent mantras that played over and over again in his head.  He was preparing for the role of a lifetime, because he really wasn’t that guy anymore, if he ever really had been.  And it wasn’t just about fooling the public, that was the easy part.  He had been careless.  He had let a few people in, he had let a precious few see glimpses of himself.  Distancing himself from them was going to prove a bit more challenging.  One of them was a freakin’ empath.  Her boyfriend had some truly frightening abilities to read the truth from people just by observation.  Another had shared his beds for months, and things had a way of slipping by the ol’ defenses when that happened.  He had ideas in place for all of them–what to do, say, vague ideas of slimy conduct that might convince them he was a genuine sociopathic mastermind.

It was Victrix that he was drawing a blank on.

Of all of them, she had seen the most.  They had shared some truly spectacular, even intimate, moments that had forged a surprisingly strong bond between them.  Red had not seen that coming.  With the others, he could formulate plans, back-ups, contingencies and the like to build a strong case that he wasn’t the man they had thought he was.  With Vix, it was going to take more than just a barrage of insults and cold truths to sway her.  She would see past all of it, and eventually figure out his game.  She really was too smart for her own good.  And what would she do then?  Would she back his play?  He doubted it.  For now, he did the only thing he could.  Stall.  For as long as he could.  She was watching him, he was sure of it, but she had not attempted contact yet.  This was a good thing.  But eventually, she would try talking to him.

And he had no idea what he was going to say to her.    Well, at least there was one small thing he could do right now.  “Overwatch,” he muttered under his breath.  “Reset privacy timer.”

#

Vickie fed another data-dump into the stand-alone server for 8-Ball and watched as Eight sucked it dry in minutes.  She suspected he’d have done it in seconds, but he was doing what humans did; considering what he was absorbing/observing.  I’m going to have to make a decision about him pretty soon.  If I keep him in isolation much longer, he might get resentful.

Her eyes went to Red’s screen.  Two days, almost three, and still nothing from him.  No idea what was going through his head.  She knew what was going through Jensen’s though, because the bastard was stupid enough to gloat where she had microphones.  A show trial, and a big one–as if they could afford to take the time and resources for a show-trial!  And after that, Red was going to some special “Program.”  Now, Jensen didn’t know what Vickie knew about Murdock’s past.  The word “Program” combined with “metas” meant the same thing they’d just rescued a couple dozen kids from, and that meant they’d make him into a weapon. An expendable one.

I can’t take this anymore, she decided.  “Overwatch, open, Red, private,” she said, and cleared her throat awkwardly.  “So,” she said, and stopped.

She was greeted with the barely audible hiss of the open channel, and then…

“A needle pulling thread,” came the Djinni’s dry response.

“Tea?” she responded, feeling suddenly light-headed.  “I can probably arrange that.  Might be able to mess with the kitchen to get you slightly better meals.”

“What do you want, Vix?” Red asked.  “Can’t a man rot in peace?”

She heard a ping from 8-Ball before she could react to that, and turned her head.  Voice analysis suggests deception, Eight said, over his newly-installed voice-link, and only then did she realize she’d had Red on speaker.

“Overwatch, internal feed, Red,” she said hastily.

“Goddamn it,” Red muttered.  “You’re sic’ing lie detectors on me now?  Really?  Have we come to this already?”

“That’s 8-ball,” she replied, moving out of the Overwatch room and into the living room.  “I’ve been working on him and I forgot I had you on speaker.  You’re just in my ear now, Penny Lane.”

“Lovely,” Red answered.  “What. Do. You. Want?”

“Honesty,” she replied, without thinking.

“Well, my balls are itching a bit,” Red replied.  “Aside from that, I’ve been told I shouldn’t say anything without a lawyer present.”

“And I wanted to know if there was anything I could do for you.”  She held her breath.

“Well, now that you mention it, it would appear that I need a lawyer.  So… yeah… maybe send me one.  Doesn’t even have to be a good one.  I hear the case is pretty open and shut.”

“I can do that,” she said as steadily as she could.  “Fair warning, Jensen intends to make you his personal attack dog.  Like he’s going to make a Program out of you.”

There was a long pause.

“You mean he’s not angling for the Chair?” Red asked, his voice dreadfully quiet.

“I have it from the horse’s ass–I mean, mouth.”

“How can he do that?” Red asked.  “That kind of sentence can’t possibly be sanctioned by anyone.  Not by ECHO, not by the public.  Are people not screaming for blood?”

“People are too busy digging foxholes.  This is wartime.  Of course,” she added, “there’s a hundred ways that I know of to make it look as if you’d been executed, and then you wake up elsewhere.  But you know, people are jerks, and they’d probably rather know you were on a leash with a shock-collar attached, replaying They Were Expendable every week or so.”  She hadn’t meant to say that much.  She hadn’t meant to say nearly that much.  But…she couldn’t let him sit there without knowing what he was facing.  Maybe that would make him fight.

It didn’t.

“Fine,” he said.  “Whatever.”

Her heart twisted into a hard, hurting knot.  “I’ll get on that lawyer thing,” she said, softly,  “I don’t think it’ll take long.  Anything else?”

“Yeah,” Red muttered.  “You can stop watching me.  I know you’re capturing the feed on this cell’s camera, and I swear it’s like I can feel your eyes on me.  Cut it out.”

There was another long pause, and Vickie felt her hands locked on the sides of her chair.

“You got it,” she said, finally.  “You can still ping me on Overwatch, if you, uh, need anything.  I’ve got incoming.  Overwatch, close, Red, private.”

And then, as if the universe decided to make sure she wasn’t a liar, she heard the alarms in the Overwatch room and scrambled back to her chair.  Thank god, it was going to be a long night.

#

He had said it in haste, still confused over how to handle her, and had sent her away.  Red fought the urge to back-peddle, to take it back and simply spill his guts out to her, when she abruptly excused herself and killed the channel.  He sat down on his cot and let his head droop into his waiting hands.

“Summers believed in me,” he muttered.  “And she paid for it.  But that’s not going to happen to you, Vix.  Maybe I can hide from them all, but not with you.  So that’s it, then.  You get the truth.  That’s the only way to handle you.”

He stood up and approached his cell door.  On the left, a small touch-screen flared to life as he approached.  As part of the security system in Top Hold, each cell was equipped with one, responding only to registered handprint scans of on-duty guards and high-ranking officers like Bella and Bulwark.  As most cells were insulated from conventional means of communication, they provided personnel a hard-wired means to communicate with the outside.  Inmates didn’t have access.  Some with special privileges were allowed brief periods of limited functionality, granting them supervised Skype calls, simple word processing or even small windows to watch movies or television.  Few inmates had friends in such high places as Red, though.  He had never tried to access the panel, but suspected someone had perhaps left him a means to entertain himself while incarcerated here.

Gently, he laid his palm on the cool interface, and was unsurprised when it responded with a gentle ping and full internet access.  He ignored the video streaming and teleconference options, and instead opened an email browser.

He exhaled, opened a new message, and began to type on the touchscreen keyboard.

To: Victoria Victrix <vickievee@ECHO.net>

From: That Red Bastard <redbastard@ECHO.net>

You asked if there was something else you can do for me.  There is.  You can keep this somewhere safe, and I leave it to you to do with as you think best.  I suppose you can consider it a confession, but you know me well enough to realize I just need to get this out there, off my chest, and I suppose there’s no one I trust more to have it then you.  It’s more than that, I guess.  You might need to know some of this stuff.  Hell, you probably deserve to more than anyone, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to thank me for it.  More the opposite.  But it needs to be said.  So get ready, it’s time for some damning truth.

In a perfect world–well, in my perfect world–things would still be chaotic.  I know I’m in the minority here.  If you’re one of those people who strive for that great secure job with regular cash showers in your ten-acre estate, I’m sorry, I just don’t get you.  I can’t think of any place more boring than the common perception of paradise.  To have everything you want when you want it, when would you ever feel your blood rushing through your veins with the bit caught in your teeth, riding the razor’s edge with a wind of flames at your back…?

As he typed, he felt his fingers moving faster, trying to keep up with the words that were aching to come out.  He paused once, as he struggled to describe how Amythist fell.  It still hurt.  The rest he scrambled to flesh out, desperate to be rid of it.  And after, as he felt a tremendous weight lift from him, he paused again, his finger hovering over the ‘send’ prompt.

“Not yet,” he whispered, finally, and simply saved the message.  He backed away from the console, letting it shut-down, and sat back down on his bunk.

 

 

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