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Chapter 7

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Chapter VII

The Prison Rats

 

The canteen area is packed just as Martin had planned for their meeting, originally the group had thought to meet when the canteen was nearly empty, however they had decided against it as it would be harder for anyone to overhear them with all the noise. However, this came with an unforeseen consequence as there were more guards positioned inside the canteen room. Martin looks around nervously thinking on the spot as Olly, Russel and Jeanie sit next to and opposite him, at which point after Martin notices Layton looking over at them, he makes up his mind. Almost a month by his count, which was albeit not very accurate, had gone by since Jeanie had joined their little group, and he just hoped that they could trust her.

“We’ll meet later on tonight in my cell rather than here.” Martin said still looking around at all the faces of both guards and inmates and wondering what madness had led him to suggest that this was a good place to discuss their plans. “I don’t like talking about the plan in daylight.” He finished, looking at his friends who look surprised at the sudden change of plans.

“Don’t they monitor the cells thought?” Jeanie asked unsure.

“It looks like they don’t. As long as we don’t leave the block, they aren’t to fussed about what happens after dark I guess.” Martin said shrugging, as long as the doors were closed, he had been able to sneak out at night and visit people in their cells, so long as you avoided the guards you tended to be fine. “Anyway, we were able to walk about in the block last night and nobody tried to stop us.” It had been hard trying to convince the others to leave their cells after the final guard patrol had left just after midnight, Martin thought. But they had not been stopped by anyone, and so long as they stayed away from the main corridor that led back to the main section of the prison, they were able to simply walk out of their cells most of the night.

“Tonight then.” Olly said looking around and they all nodded trying to hide their exactment as one of the guards. Franklin Homer looked down at the group with suspicion, whilst not the worst of the guards, that great honour going to Layton. Franklin was still not someone to get on their bad side. Being second in command directly under Colton Abraham, Franklin was a terrifying brute who either; didn’t know or simply didn’t speak the imperial language, preferring to growl in Barter to both inmates and the other guards. It in fact had been one of the other guards in fact that had warned Martin not to get Franklin angry on his very first week as an inmate. ‘A pity they didn’t warn me about Layton at the same time.’ Martin thought to himself. Clearly not detecting any wrongdoing, Franklin continued on his patrol as Olly continued on. “Let’s just hope this plan works.” Olly said looking nervously around himself, a bad sign as Olly was normally ready for whatever hair brained scheme the group would come up with.

At that moment however, the one person worse than Franklin came strolling over towards them. Layton a sneer curling his lips walks up to the four of them and proceeds to look down at the little group.

“Ah, now what would fours rats be doing so close together.” Layton said stick at the ready. Martin, Olly and Russel say nothing.

“Is that a crime now. Talking to other people.” Jeanie said. Martin closes his eyes and can hear Olly gulp as the three waited for the punishment to begin but what came was far worse. Layton merely smiled down at Jeanie, a dangerous sign to any but the most inexperienced inmate.

“Be very careful missy.” Layton said standing over Jeanie, who to her credit does not move away. “A tongue like that is likely to get people into trouble.” Layton then turns around on his heel and walks away, but not before hitting Russel over the head with his stick on his way back to his station.

“That was close.” Martin said looking to see if Layton is out of earshot. Russel begins to massage his head where he had been clouted, whilst there was no sign of any blood, the strike had still hurt. “Not the best idea insulting him Jeanie. He’ll make your life hell for this.” Martin continued but to his amazement Jeanie simply smiled back at him.

“If we’re leaving tomorrow, what does it matter what that ape thinks about us?” Jeanie said, but before she could carry on with her reasoning for angering the worst possible person in this place, another guard walked up to the four of them, Hector Gurn, six feet tall and pale skin looked down at the four before homing in on Martin.

“Inmate 346, you are required in room forty-four.” Hector said in a deadpan tone. Martin looked up in shock before looking at his friends. He knew what room forty-four was and whilst a lot better than room ninety-nine, it was still a place he didn’t want to end up in. “Do I need to repeat myself inmate?” Hector said, bringing up his stick to show his seriousness.

“Do I have a choice?” Martin said knowing what the answer was going to be but thought that it was at least worth a shot.

“Do I take that as a refusal?” Hector said, his dead eyes looking at Martin, who realised that this man did not give a damn, unlike guards such as Layton who enjoyed it, this man neither cared, sympathised or enjoyed the torture of the children under his watch, but neither would he raise a hand to stop it, this was a job to him and he would do it, no matter what was asked of him.

“No.” Martin said begrudgingly before getting up.

“That’s good 346, you’re finally learning.” Hector said, waiting for Martin to walk ahead of him, which after sighing he did. Once he was out of the canteen Jeanie turned to Olly and Russel.

“What’s room forty-four?” Jeanie asked looking at the two boys who both had looks of apprehension on their faces, she had never heard of the place but judging by the looks on the other boys faces she guessed that it wasn’t anything good.

“It’s where they do the final preparations before you meet the chief.” Russel said, he had seen the people that came out of that room, and they looked like the dead after whatever was done in there was completed.

“There is a test you have to undergo or something. But after you go there, you only have a few days left in this place. Which means it ain’t great news for old Sparky.” Olly said looking grim.

“How long does it take?” Jeanie said thinking about the plans they had set in motion for this evening.

“He’ll be back by this evening.” Russel said, as if he had read her mind. He however left out the ‘hopefully’ that he was thinking in regard to that statement. As he didn’t want to cast unnecessary doubt. It all depended on how much Martin would fight whatever happened there. And having known what he was like over the past month or so that he had been in here for, the answer was most likely. ‘He’ll fight it with everything he has.’

 

As Hector walked Martin through an iron door with a metal forty-four embedded into it, the kid realised that he had been brought here before, only for a punishment rather than the test that he knew was coming. He was about to try and run when he came face to face with Doctor Larry, who was leering down at him.

“Good morning inmate 346.” Dr Larry said with that creepy smile on his face while he looked down at Martin, who stood there not saying anything simply looking around the room. Inside there was a large tank about two meters high filled with water with a platform next to it.

“Why am I here?” Martin asked continuing to look around the room where another guard that he knew simply as Berbarg a fat guard that Martin had hardy seen around expect when kids were sent below, stood next to the doctor.

“You are here because you are nearing the end of your time with us and will be leaving soon, so long as you behave yourself.” Dr Larry said, implying that if he didn’t get sent below, he would be sent out into the world and used up as a spy. Martin deduced. ‘Or escape.’ He thought thinking about the meeting with his friends.

“Now Inmate 346 kindly hold out your arm if you please.” Dr Larry said, producing a syringe with a clear liquid in it.

“What’s in there?” Martin asked looking at the liquid more than the syringe. He had no idea what was in that syringe, but he had no intention of willingly giving this crazy lunatic his arm.

“Just something that will make this a lot simpler.” Dr Larry said. Martin still didn’t produce his arm and instinctively backed up a few paces, which might have worked with the only problem being that he had backed right into Hector, who grabbed both his arms and pushed the boy back forward, with Dr Larry sighed deeply at this act of defiance. “You know inmate, we can do this the easy way, or the hard way.” At this Berbarg stepped forward. Noticing this, Martin relented and held out his arm. At which point, the liquid was then swiftly injected into his veins. “There, that wasn’t so bad, was it?” Dr Larry said in a sing song voice. Before he returned to his more matter-of-fact tone. “This is a simple test, if you will kindly strip down and head into the tank we can begin.” Dr Larry said. Martin froze, he realised why the guard was there now, to make sure he didn’t disobey, as if on cue the fat guard raised his electro stick up to eye level.

Martin looked at the guard mentally deciding that if it was a choice between getting wet or getting electrocuted as well as getting wet. He’d take the former and began to take of his jumpsuit.

 

A few minutes later Martin floated in the tank, treading water as Doctor Larry stood above him, smiling down at the small boy.

“Now inmate 346 I want you to stay under for twenty seconds, then return to the surface, you understand?” Dr Larry asked continuing to smile. Martin nodded silently only because he knew that he was going under one way or the other. He breathed and then submerged his body, counting to twenty. Once he was done, he re-surfaced, sputtering but only slightly. Dr Larry checked his watch before returning to Martin. However, something had changed, the room was suddenly a lot colder than it had been before he had gone under, he was about to raise this point when a voice from the door speaks up, a silky but still menacing voice, as Martin turns around, he sees the real chief of this place standing next to Dr Larry.

“Now then Mr Wolfrick.” Eugene said looking at the boy. “I’m now going to test you; this will be over as soon as you know it.” Eugene said smiling.

 

Martin looked at Eugene in horror. If he was here, how long did he really have left before he was used up. But there was no time to think about that as the monster in front of him began his test.

“Now then, Mr Wolfrick. I’m seeing a place you will know, what is it?” Eugene said. Martin looked at Eugene in stunned horror.

“W… What?” Martin said, looking around in confusion. Eugene sighed, as if he had expected this response and turned back to the doctor.

“Again Dr Larry.” Eugene said.

“Alright little man, forty seconds this time.” Dr Larry said.

“Wait.” Martin tried to speak before his head was shoved under the water by Berbarg. He thrashed about in the water for the allotted time before the guard released the top of his head and allowed him to return to the surface, spluttering. There was no relief on the surface however, as Eugene was waiting very patiently for him.

“I’m seeing a place Mr Wolfrick, where is it. I know you know this place.” Eugene said.

“I… I don’t have a fucking clue what you’re talking about.” Martin said sputtering due to not having the time to prepare his lungs for the oncoming water.

“Again Dr Larry, a minute this time.” Eugene said. Dr Larry nodded, and Martin took a lung full of air before he was forced to submerge his head. Given that he had time, not a lot of it, but some to prepare, it wasn’t as frighting as the previous attempt. He was allowed to re-surface after a minute where he was asked once again what place Eugene was seeing.

“I don’t know.” Martin said, he was becoming more and more tired, after the fifth submergence for a minute forty, Eugene once again asked his questions and a brief image flashed into Martin’s head, the image of the white marble city hall exterior, or what had been the city hall, he knew now that the place was but a ruin, despite what they showed on those propaganda films.

“Mr Wolfrick. I’m seeing a place you will know, what is it?” Eugene asked. Martin was on the verge of telling this monster, when a voice inside his head told him not to, that it would be safer to deny it.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Martin said, almost crying at this point, as he tried to maintain treading water. This answer, like the others didn’t seem to please Eugene, however.

“Mr Wolfrick, we can continue in this dance for as long as possible. You decide when this stops. Dr Larry. Two minutes.” Eugene said, looking at the doctor who nodded. Berbarg looked down at Martin, almost apologetically.

“Just give him what he wants kid.” Berbarg said, grimacing as he allowed Martin to take in several breaths full of air before dunking him. After a minute and a half however, Martin’s lungs had run out of oxygen and he tried to re-surface but Berbarg hand was still on his head at which point he started to really panic, trashing around using up what little oxygen he had left, he felt his lungs start to fill up, when mercifully the hand that was holding him down was removed from his head and he uses what strength is left to push himself to the surface, spluttering heavily.

“We can keep doing this Mr Wolfrick.” Eugene said tiredly. “We will keep doing this till you drown, then we will revive you and continue. So, Mr Wolfrick. I’m seeing a place you will know, what is it?” Eugene said and once again the image of the old city hall comes into Martin’s head for a second before disappearing.

“City Plaza, The Police HQ, The Old Bridge, Undesirables Walk.” Martin said, randomly saying names other than of the place that had appeared in his head just to try and stop this torture. Eugene shook his head solemnly.

“Two minutes twenty Doctor.” Eugene said and Martin really did begin to cry at this. He wasn’t sure how much of this he could take.

“Are we sure about this?” Berbarg said looking at the kid with some apprehension. “I mean if it ain’t working why not wait a bit longer.” The guard finished. But for all the good it did, he may as well have remained silent as both Eugene and Dr Larry ignored him and continued on.

“River-men can hold their breath underwater for almost five minutes inmate. We’re not even halfway there yet.” Dr Larry said with a grin. “I suggest you take a large gulp of air lad as you’re going under again and again, until we are satisfied.” Dr Larry finished. At this, Martin looked over at the Berbarg hoping for some help, but it was foolish to hope, whilst the guard may not like what was happening, we was more scared of Eugene and the doctor to do anything about it.

After two further attempts where on the final one Martin had lost consciousness and almost drowned after being submerged for three minutes. Eugene sighed deeply as Martin collapsed on the grown, sopping wet and spluttering, trying to get the residue water out of his lungs.

“We’ll continue this tomorrow Mr Wolfrick.” Eugene said before gliding out of the room, without so much as a backwards glance at the tortured boy.

Berbarg walked up to the inmate holding his jumpsuit, grimacing at the sight, the lad’s skin was almost blue, and he was retching on the ground, he guessed that the inmate would have been vomiting if he had been properly fed.

“Can you get up?” Berbarg said looking concerned Martin who struggled to his feet, using the bars on the wall to support him whilst he tried to sit himself up. “Once you’re ready, put your cloths back on and I’ll take you back to your cell.” Berbarg finished and left the cloths next to Martin who was slowly but surely getting his retching under control.

 

After about fifteen minutes Martin found himself lying in his stone bed, he had skipped dinner and had initially been surprised that he hadn’t been punished for it, but he guessed that the guards had been instructed to cut him a modicum of slack after his most recent ordeal.

As he lay on his uncomfortable bed; Olly, Russel and Jeanie walked into his cell, looking down at the still wet and slightly blue Martin lying on his bed. His eyes were blood shot and was still have a small problem breathing sputtering every few breaths trying to get as much oxygen into his lungs as possible.

“What did they do sparky, drown you?” Olly said looking down at Martin with pity, he had heard that was what happened in room forty-four but hadn’t believed it. Martin only nodded in response looking as bad as any of them had seen him.

“How long?” Russel said. Martin looked up, there were deep rings around his eyes and managed to splutter out one word.

“Three.” Martin said. Trying and failing to sit up as Russel whistled at which point Jeanie hit him.

“Still on to meet later tonight? We could wait another day if you want.” Olly said but Martin shook his head successfully sitting up this time and looking at the three of them, they couldn’t wait any longer as he didn’t know how many days he had left.

“No, meet here after the guard makes his final rounds.” Martin said, he didn’t say the second part of his thoughts, but they knew, the looks on their faces told him that at the least.

 

That night, as Martin lay in his stone bed, pretending to be asleep as the guard walked past his cell, dragging the electro rod along the walls and doors as he walked up and down the block. Before deciding to head back towards the main section of the prison leaving the cells, as always, unguarded. At the sounds of the retreating footsteps, Martin opens his eyes and take a small pick he had managed to fashion earlier in the week and heads over towards the door and quickly picking the lock, hearing it click he slowly opened the door, mercifully not making a sound. As after a few nervous minutes where Martin hoped to the gods that he was correct about the guards not caring about the inmates leaving their cells, Olly, Russel and finally Jeanie entered his cell and he carefully closes the door behind him.

Martin turns around to find the three of them already sitting on his bed waiting.

“So, go over the plan.” Russel said not wanting to stay out too long in case his friend was wrong about the guards.

“Alright tomorrow night, we’ll all reconvene here after the guard leaves, after that we get the toilet up and head down the pipes.” Martin said with an apologetic look on his face, before continuing. “They should be big enough for us to get through one at a time. Which will deposit us in the cistern outside the walls. Then it is just a case of climbing out and bolting for it.” He finished looking around at his small audience.

“Which way?” Olly asked, looking sceptical, but willing to hear the kid out at least.

“North, it’s the safest place to go now anyways. Just act normally tomorrow and everything will go according to plan.” Martin said hoping that he sounded a lot braver and more confident than he felt.

“What if the plan doesn’t work?” Jeanie said raising the doubts that the group shared. “I mean you could probably fit through the pipes Martin, put we’re a lot bigger than you are.” Jeanie looked at Olly and Russel both of whom were bigger than both Martin and herself.

“You’ll all fit. Trust me, those pipes are a lot bigger than you would think, and as Layton said we are rats after all.” Martin said looking at Olly and Russel who it would be a bit tight but would still most likely be able to fit, at least he hoped. He had made a quick attempt to see how big the pipes were in order to test his theory of escape. That had been a very unpleasant experience, but fortunately none of the guards had inquired about why he was smelling like raw sewage, in fact it helped with the Layton problem considerably, as the sociopath refused to come near him. “Plus, I’m not spending another day in this dump.” He finished looking seriously at the three of them. As they nod their agreement, no matter how bad the plan was going to be they could all agree it was better than staying in this hell hole another day.

“We reconvene in twenty-four hours then.” Olly said looking around.

“Yes.” Martin said. “Now you should get back and get some sleep, as we’re all going to need it.” Martin silently thought about when the next time he would be able to sleep would be after they escaped. Thinking it would depend on whether a search party would be sent out or not. As Jeanie, Olly and Russel head back to their own cells, Martin manages to shut the door as quietly as possible and resets the lock on it before walking back and lying down on his own bed, staring at the rocky ceiling for a few hours before eventually dozing off. Completely unaware of what the following day had in store.

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