The List Episode 17: Prison Break

Silas stared at me, the red auxiliary lights turning his grin into something murderous.  His fingers worked at his side, itching to grab hold of the antique handgun housed in his shoulder harness.  The room shook from explosions in some far off part of the prison facility, and it felt like the kilometer of dirt above us would come crashing down at any moment.

I glanced down to the silver case at my feet, and calculated the length of time it would take me to retrieve the Seiver out of it versus the amount it would take Silas to pull his gun.  Silas’s grin widened.

“Draw.”

✓✓✓✓✓✓✓✓

There were two ways to get into the New City Penitentiary – become a convict or become a guard.  I chose the one that gave me a gun.

It had been easy getting in.  I had flooded the system with resumes, all containing years of experience and skills that couldn’t be passed up – all falsified, and all me.  And to be honest, each a gross under exaggeration of my actual abilities.  The next part was what I did best.  It’d been easier finding a couple guards with more than questionable pasts than it with clean records.  Then I’d spent the next few days creating some openings at the joint.

The NCP, frequently called The Tomb because of its location one kilometer under the city, seemed like a long shot, but I had it under good authority that this was where the next power play was going to take place.  The officer I had captured had spilled his guts – in both of meanings of the phrase.  He hadn’t known much, but it was something, and I knew was true.  Between the Doctor’s methods and my own, our victims found it very hard to lie.

And so I received my stun baton and standard issued automatic pistol, and was assigned shifts to the block in East Wing.  It wasn’t the wing that housed the super villains, but there were plenty of rapists and psychopaths for me to beat down while on duty.  And there, I waited.

✓✓✓✓✓✓✓✓

It happened while I was sitting in the dining commons, enjoying a hearty meal of vitamin enriched protein chunks.  I chewed one final bite and watched as a select group of guards throughout the hall signaled briefly to one another and stood, leaving their trays uneaten.  There were fifteen that stood out of the twenty-five men currently eating.  Without hesitation, they drew their guns and leveled them at the back of the heads of all the unsuspecting guards.  Two guns rested at my neck.  The fifteen men simultaneously pulled the trigger on their fifteen guns.

Had I not been anticipating this, those not in on the deal – myself included – would all be dead.  But I had been watching closely the bank accounts and assets of all the men on my shift, and had noticed a trend in certain members of our group.  It was then a simple matter of rigging their weapons with faulty charges.

The guns exploded in their hands, sending fingers flying like shrapnel.  I rose from my seat, picking it up with me.  I slammed the light, yet fully solid, carbon-alloy chair into the head of one of my screaming attackers.  I grabbed the other guard by the arm and neck and smashed his teeth against the edge of the table.

The sitting guards were now frozen half up out of their seats, staring dumbfounded at their now injured coworkers, unsure of whether they should help them with their bleeding hands or fight back.  A high pitched alarm jostled them out of their stupor, and I just hoped they had enough sense to survive the upcoming war.  The walls of the cafeteria changed from bleak concrete to vibrant video feeds displaying the currently erupting chaos in the recreational zones.

Fires burned bright as inmates fought guards in close quarter combat, using shivs, weights, or whatever other weapons they could get their hands on.  Some guards opened fire without discretion, gunning down their own coworkers along with the inmates, and the deluge of inmates were just starting to snatch up the weapons of the fallen guards.

All of this was expected, and I was now bolting out of the cafeteria.  I wasn’t sure how long I had, but I knew without a doubt what was going to happen.  The power still flowed through my wing of the prison, meaning the rest of the inmates should still be locked behind their force cages, but it was only a matter of time before all hell broke loose.

I mapped the facility layout in my mind as I ran, blowing by the confusion in the long corridors and bypassing the automatic lifts for the always reliable manual stairs.  The entirety of The Tomb was shaped like four spokes sticking out of a center axle, with the each wing housing its own completely operational prison system.  At the outermost part of the wing was the barracks where the guards spent their off hours playing cards and ogling dirty magazines.  The next part of the wing was split into two sections, with the prisoner cafeteria, rec areas, and labor division (aka sweat shops) on the top, and the rows upon rows of cells on the bottom.  A tram system looped around the middle section and connected to the central hub, where the administrative offices and main lifts resided.

I continued up the flights of stairs, to the top of the barracks, where the East Warden’s office and living quarters were.  Besides a hand full of administrators who were more than likely long gone, there were four people who could initiate a complete lockdown of The Tomb.  The East Warden was one of them, and I needed him if I wanted to keep the scourge of the earth from flooding into the city.  At this point, he would be trying to escape on the rarely used emergency lift behind his quarters.  I imagined he’d be starting to sweat right about now, on account of the lift being out of operation.

I reached the Warden’s level, and was glad to see a guard still posted outside of the entrance to the quarters.  That would actaully make breaking into it a hell of a lot easier.  He started to call out and grab for his gun, but I was already on him, my baton ready to apply a dose of near non-lethal force.  The baton struck his knuckles, crushing them and sending the gun clattering, then struck each side of the guards head until his legs buckled.  I grabbed him as he fell and shoved him up against the biometric scanners, then let him drop as the doors parted.

I passed through the anteroom and skipped the main office in favor of the open door that led to the living quarters, knowing either way would take me to the emergency lift.  I was almost jealous of the Warden’s fully furnished suite.  Compared to the tiny box I had been assigned to sleep in, this was downright luxurious.  No utilitarian grey and concrete here.  The racks of wine and velvet upholstered furniture were in perfect condition, showing no signs of panic.  And why should there be, seeing as how the Warden had probably known about this riot a month in advance.

I heard grumbling through the cracked door at the back of the room.  Now came the frantic beeping of buttons being jabbed like maybe this time it would work.  It hadn’t been easy getting the credentials to work on the emergency lifts from the outside, and had been even less easy fooling the monitoring systems into thinking that they would still work.

I snuck up to the door and peered through the crack.  The Warden, a tall, slender man with almost spider like appendages and graying hair, wiped the sweat off his brow and hunched over the call button to the elevator.  Two guards accompanied him in the cramped space, looking nervously at each other but smart enough to not say a word.

“Why isn’t it working?” the Warden spat at one of the guards.

“Maybe I can help you out here,” I said as I kicked the door open.

The guards turned in surprise, and I put a bullet in their heads before they could respond with gunfire of their own.  The Warden reached for his pistol, and I clasped his hand and twisted it around further than it should have bent.  The Warden screamed.  I brought his other hand together with the one already behind his back and slammed him into the wall.  I pulled a belt out of the loop of one of the dead guard’s pants and secured the Warden’s wrists, leaving a little extra leather that I could use as a leash.  I removed his gun, which screamed a series of beeps letting me know my biocredentials didn’t match, and I tossed the useless thing aside.

“Let’s move,” I said, and turned him away from the elevator.

“Please, don’t kill me, I can get you whatever you want!  If it’s money, I’ve got that!” the Warden stammered.

I sighed and gave him a quick boot to the ass to jumpstart his feet.  “Like I haven’t heard that one before,” I said as I steered him out of his quarters and to the stairs.  “You guys should really come up with something better than money.”

“If it’s not money, just tell me.  As much time with any of the prisoners as you want.  I’ve got connections.  Any type of drug you’d want.  Or if it’s not that, women, men, children, whatever – you can even beat them if you want.”

I kicked him again, this time aiming for the tip of his coccyx.  He let out a whimper and tried to slow down.  I shoved him and he went reeling forward, the only thing keeping him off the ground being my grip on the belt that was now pulling his arms out of their sockets.

“I wish I could say I’d never heard that one.  Don’t make me push you down these stairs.”

He shut up and hobbled down the steps the best he could with a broken tailbone.  We went down several flights in silence, and then he slowed and craned his head back to look at the last access door we had passed.

“Hey, that was the tram entry,” he said, his breathing getting rapid.

“Sure was.”

“Wait, where are you taking me?”

“To the control center.  We’re shutting this joint down.”

His lips slapped together for a few seconds but nothing came out.  “But that’s the only way to the other side…” he finally said.

“You and I both know it isn’t.  And right now you’re more likely to get shanked on the tram than the route we’re taking.  That’s saying the fail-safe security is still on.”

He shook his head and trembled, but I kept him moving.  Great, looks like I can count the fail-safe to fail.

We stopped at a door, much more heavily reinforced than the others, and the Warden looked back at me somberly.  The door split open vertically as I tested my biometrics, and I pulled the Warden behind me and led with my gun as we entered.  My eyes adjusted to the darkness as the few remaining overheads flickered.  A heavy smoke coated the once pristine lobby area, and the coppery smell of death clung to everything.  Desks were overturned and pushed up against the walls.  An elevator door repeatedly opened and shut, and I could just make out the slumped figure blocking the lift from travel.  That wasn’t the only body amidst the debris, but none seemed to be breathing.  We crept over to the elevator and I peeked inside.  Four other guards lay piled on top of one another.  There were benefits to the stairs other than cardiovascular workout.

The room rumbled from explosions far off in the complex, and I grabbed the warden and continued to the door set into the far side of the wall.  I had been starting to wonder when they were going to show up.

“Do we really have to do this?” the Warden asked, staring at the thick superinium alloy entrance.

“I can kill you here if you prefer,” I said, and realized by the paleness of his face that he would take that option if I actually gave it to him.  Instead I stuck his head up to be read by the scanners.  Three set of door exactly like this one unlocked and receded into the walls as we walked in, each snapping closed behind us as we passed.

Immediately we were assaulted by the yells and screams of thousands crying for blood.  Dim lights lined each row of cells, of which there were hundreds that stretched out to the far end of the wing.  There were no guards in sight.  They must have been either busy somewhere else, had been paid enough to abandon their post, or more than likely had just lost their nerve and fled.  Buzzed cut and tattoo faced inmates hooted as I half dragged the Warden down the long gantry that cut through the center of the chamber.

As much as they yelled and pounded, they stayed behind the invisible line at the front of their cells that would cause loss of consciousness and side effects worse than even the more questionable prescription drugs.  Little did they know, that barrier was protecting them from me.  We were about halfway across when the penitentiary shook again, this time causing the Warden to wobble and almost topple over the railing.

I pulled him back on as the walkway swayed in time to the deep rumble of explosions not far off.  The entire structure screeched one last time, and then the explosions stopped, the screams from the inmates stopped, and the East Block filled with darkness.

The sound of a thousand hearts beating echoed in the void, each breathe contemplative of their owner’s next move.  Then came the ruffling of inmates shuffling off their beds, and next came the quiet murmurs and whispers questioning the state of their confinement.

“Better keep moving,” I whispered into the Warden’s ear. “I don’t think you’re going to like this next part.”

The red auxiliary lights hummed on, casting an eerie glow on the bewildered onlookers surrounding us.

“Move!” I yelled, which was consequently drowned out by the roar that followed as the first inmate attempted to test the backup security measures – to find there were none.

The prisoners piled out of their cells and onto the balconies and rushed towards the catwalks that led to the center walkway.  I half carried the warden by the back of his neck.  The exit was only twenty seconds away at our current pace.  The inmates would be on us in ten.

The inmates swarmed, blocking our path to the front and flooding in at our heels.  I pulled out my baton and met the crush head on.  They were only able to come at me two or three at a time – any more than that and they were just pushing themselves over the railing.  I swung, giving each inmate only the graciousness of one hemorrhage dealing blow apiece.  Their claws and teeth scraped and pierced, but I kept the warden behind me and tore through them.  Sweat and blood covered my entire body and matted what was left of my uniform to my skin.

The surge behind us finally caught up, the man leading the pack coming in swift and low with a small plastic object.  I swung the Warden around and the shiv stuck into my side, penetrating the first couple layers of muscle.  I shattered the baton against the man’s skull, and his body disappeared under the feet of the wave.

I hoisted the Warden onto my shoulder and drew my gun.  The solid wall of bodies propelled me forward as I cleared a path with bullets.  I could see the exit now through the tangle of limbs, but the bodies piled higher and higher.  The gun clicked empty.  A searing pain ran up my arm, but barely registered amongst all the other wounds.  I spun the gun around and stamped the handle into the forehead of the inmate that clung to the meat of my forearm by his teeth.  I couldn’t tell if the Warden was still breathing.  His hands dangled limply down my back, the belt that had bound his wrists having become lost at some point in the confusion.

Now the wave was crushing us from all sides, and spilling over the railing with no place to go.  I dragged each leg like they were two feet deep in wet cement, in the direction that the door should have been.  I could no longer see the door through the deluge of inmates and blood, or even tell if I was still heading towards it.  I roared one final battle cry and lunged.  My fist drilled through, and finally I felt the cold steel against my knuckles.  But the door remained shut, unable to pick up my or the Warden’s biometrics through the chaos.  We were stuck.

I felt the twitch of an arm on my back, and could just barely hear the indistinct mumbling of the Warden.  I swung around, using the Warden’s legs to open up a small space to work in, and I launched the Warden up over the sea that engulfed us.  A chime rung out and instantly the wave was moving again.

The Warden flew through the open door, ahead of the crowd, and he smacked against the next set of doors and jarred awake.

I was at the front of the wave, arms outstretched and feet skidding as I tried in vain to hold the unstoppable mass back.  “Shut the door!” I roared.

“Over ride 4470!” the Warden yelled.  The door snapped shut, snatching a patch from the back of my shirt and severing an unfortunate inmate in half.  Many other extremities hung from the vertical seam of the door like meat caught between teeth.

The warden rubbed his eyes, but it was impossible to tell if it was blood or tears through the red filter of the auxiliary lights.  I stumbled forward and lifted him to his feet by what was left of his shirt.  He was shaking, probably going into shock.  I only needed him for a few more minutes, after that he could go into cardiac arrest for all I cared.

“See, told you it wasn’t going to be that bad,” I said, turning him around to open the next door.  “We’re almost there.”

We took the next two doors, leaving the thrum of the prisoner’s pounding behind, and entered the administrative section of the facility.  We came to a vast cubicle farm where unmanned consoles whirred and beeped, and feeds from various security cameras played over the empty desks.  Scattered flexpapers crunched underneath our feet as we paced down the aisles.  And then I froze.

At the other end of the office, merged with the shadows, stood a tall dark man, dressed in a well tailored suit and wearing a smile that I could never forget.

I shoved the Warden behind a desk.  Silas had his ancient gun drawn, and I had no weapons.  It was obvious that at this distance he had an advantage.  I ran, keeping low and weaving through the labyrinth of cubicles, my eyes scanning for anything that could be used as a weapon.  There was plenty that would work against normal soldiers, but that obviously wasn’t the case with Silas.  I grabbed an office chair and rolled out into the isle with it.  Silas was five meters away.  I kicked the back of the chair and sent it careening towards his legs.  He held his fire and side stepped it at the last moment.  I lunged for his throat.  And then he fired.

The concussive blast sent my ears ringing.  My eyes watered from the sting of gunpowder.  The bitter taste of burnt carbon filled my mouth.  Behind me, the Warden let out a final yelp, and I turned in time to see him caught in mid-stride, his head jerking back almost enough to touch his spine, and then his body slammed into the closed door he had been heading for.

Silas’s gun turned back on me before I had a chance to get in range.  And of course, the bastard continued to hold that overeager grin on his face.

I dropped my hands and let my body relax.  No point in getting worked up over lost causes.  My ticket to locking down the prison was dead, and I knew if I pushed this further I would be too.

“I hope you understand,” he said, offering his hands out in forgiveness, “I’m just doing my job.  I couldn’t just let you bring that man in and shut down some very complex plans.”

I shrugged in return.  “I hear you’re doing well for yourself, Silas.  Or should I call you ‘Black Grain Silas’?  Funny, because I don’t think your allegiance really falls with the Sin Coalition.”

“You’ve never been one to let someone pull the wool over your eyes, yet there’s so very little that you see.”

“Cryptic as ever.  That’s why I like you, you know.  Everybody needs a good mystery or two in their life.  But don’t think I’ve forgotten about you leaving me in that warehouse to die.”

“If I recall, a couple of your bullets came damn close to ruining my suit.  I’m willing to let that slide, if you’ll do the same.”

“Sure, but I still might kill you all the same.  How long are you going to keep me here?”

“That’s a risk of the job, I suppose.  I can’t let you go until they have finished up all their business.  We can’t have you interfering anymore than you already have.”

Silas deposited his gun into a shoulder holster and reached out of view, bringing back a small silver case.

“But just because we’re waiting around doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun.”  He set the case on the floor and slid it over with his foot.

The case stopped at my boot.  I gave it a precursory glance, and figured out the amount of time it would take me to open it and get to the weapon inside.  Silas curled and uncurled his fingers.  He gave me a wink to accompany his million dollar smile.

“Hell, why not.”

“Draw.”

Silas’s hand snapped up to his holster.  I snatched the case and rolled into a cubicle.  I kicked the desk over and bullets popped into it while my fingers worked the latches of the case open.  I grabbed the Seiver and checked the settings – fully loaded and charged up.  I could always count on Silas to cater to my tastes.

I launched myself over the desk, holding the opened case up like a shield with one hand and spraying fire with the other.  Silas seemed to slither behind cover and my bullets only caught shadows.  The case dimpled and buckled as he returned fire.  I dove around the corner even as the bullets punctured the case and sank into the meat of my arm, where they sat and burned.

Silas went to dive for cover, but I cut into his path with metal and brought him back to me.  I slung the case around, aiming to lash him in the face.  He ducked fluidly under it, but now he was within reach.  He whipped the barrel of his gun into my gut.  I slammed my knee up into his wrist, redirecting his aim to somewhere that wasn’t me, and the bullet whizzed past my ear.  He pawed my arm at the last second, keeping a bullet from entering his own head.

I slipped my leg around his, and the ground came rushing towards us.  He maneuvered a leg beneath us, reversing the balance, and we were up again.

There we paused, breathing heavy, each gun lined up directly between the eyes of the other.  My finger knew to the fraction of a millimeter the distance it took to trigger the firing mechanism of the Seiver.  It wouldn’t take even an ounce of strength to send the bullet travelling down the barrel.  Yet my finger stopped right at the threshold.

Silas cocked his head to the side, his attention suddenly elsewhere.  The flicker in his eyes told me he was probably answering a call from an implant.

“Something more important than what we have here?” I said.

“Sorry about that,” he said, then whispered “It’s the boss.”

He directed his attention back to me, but relaxed and jerked his gun back into his shoulder holster.  I lowered mine from his forehead but kept it pointed at him.

“It looks like we’ll have to settle this another time,” he said, straightening out his tie.  “They’ve got what they came for.”

“I guess I’ll have to get them on the surface then.”

He started walking in the direction of the elevators.  “A word of warning,” he said, and then – pausing briefly – added, “Though you probably already know this, Arachnos has plans up top that dwarf anything that’s gone on down here.  If you’re going to stop him, you better make it soon, or not at all.”

“I’ll put it on my to-do,” I said.  He disappeared into the labyrinth of offices, and I followed, eager to see what awaited me topside.

  • Reddurcs

    I’ve been really enjoying this story. Thank you for being so consistent with your updates. I just wanted to let you know that you’ve got some support, and that I love where this story is going. I can’t wait to see what the Coalition is actually up to.

    • http://kristruitt.com Kris Truitt

      Thanks, it means a lot to me to hear this!  

      The next ep is most likely a two-parter, and should start to tie up some of these dangling threads (while probably creating a couple more).
      Feel free to hit me up on facebook/twitter/email/stone slate/preferred method of communication.  If you would like to check out any of my other writing, just let me know. It’s always awesome to hear what readers have to say about it!