Title: Redstone Chapter 14, Part 1
Nearly all of life for prisoners in Redstone necessitated a waiting game.
They waited for food, most of them crowding around the troughs that opened in the walls like the pigs they were forced to imitate, the more powerful or the weakest ones hanging back to be served by subordinates or steal a bite when no one was watching.
They waited for a chance to get clean: the showers came on once a day, for five minutes. Cold to wet you down, briefly hot with a spray of soap to cleanse, and then cold again. There were two rooms for showering, ostensibly divided by gender, but in reality one belonged to Klia, one to Rory. There was a hierarchy of cleanliness, as with everything, and if you weren’t part of a crew you either had to beg a bucket from someone, find a new source for water, or risk getting naked in among the press of some of the worst humanity the Federation had to offer. Outright rape was common, and “voluntary servicing” in the showers even more so.
Prisoners waited for the most basic of amenities, with wild-eyed fear and resigned acceptance and feral, savage glee. Prisoners who ran the show made other people wait for them, but in the end everybody waited. The constant lack of occupation led to people making their own, mostly in the worst ways possible. Bloodsports, gambling, sex and murder: they were brutal past times, but at least they gave people something to do.
An unexpected side effect of his new, strange status in Redstone was that Isidore suddenly had more free time than he’d had before. It wasn’t a welcome development. He has a master trader, the man who could get people things that worked in strange ways, surprising ways. He could help piece together a revenge or soothe an ache or shed a ray of light into darkness so complete it felt like being inside a cold, dead womb at times. He traded for what he needed, and he had enough spare parts set aside that he could afford to trade for Kyle as well. It took time to make all the things that people wanted, though, and that pleasantly occupied time had before now been the best part of his day. After coming to an accord with Rory, though…
“Hello, pet,” Pence purred as he suddenly appeared in their section of the hall. Kyle started, and the only reason Isidore didn’t jump was because he was welding something and had trained himself out of being surprised when he was holding the sort of heat that could melt metal. He turned his machine off and glared at Pence.
“What are you doing here?”
“I wished for a glimpse into the heart of the dragon, where you two darling boys have made your hearth and home!” he said with a smile. “I must say, it’s just as uncomfortable as advertised. How on earth do you stand the pull?”
“Willpower.” In reality, Isidore was so used to the way the iron tugged at his blood that he barely noticed it now. Kyle had so recently been in the tank that his body was still minimizing the side effects: the nausea, the headaches, the way the magnetism could make your skin crawl. Hopefully they’d be out of here by the time their surroundings really began to tell on him. “What do you want?”
“I came to deliver your offerings, of course.”
“What kind of offerings?” Kyle asked, trying not to show his sudden interest. What was occupation for Isidore wasn’t quite as entertaining for Kyle, who was a decent engineer but didn’t find inspiration in it.
“Pure and holy offerings of esteem and sacrifice, to the man who went to a one-on-one meeting with Rory and lived to tell the tale, little lamb,” Pence said, slinging a bag off of his shoulder and laying it out on the ground.
“Don’t be an asshole,” Isidore said with a sigh.
“I can be a dick too, if that’s more your style, love,” Pence said instantly. Kyle almost smiled, which delighted the interloper. “Aw, your lamb likes me, Isidore. Doesn’t his regard soften your heart toward me?”
“No, not really.” There was only one way this was going to end, though, and that was with Pence making his presentation. “Fine. Show me what you’ve brought.”
“First, let me just say how utterly horrifying it was to be hunted down by representatives from the biggest sides in our never-ending battle and told I was the perfect delivery boy,” Pence said, a frown coming to his ruddy face. “I didn’t think my favoritism was that blatant, but then I’m not good at ignoring beautiful things and you’ve not beaten me senseless yet, so I suppose people were bound to think we liked each other.”
“Which is wrong.”
“Oh darling, don’t play coy. You know I adore you,” Pence said brightly. “If I didn’t, I would just have kept all this wonderful supplies for myself. Yet here I am, laying it at your feet.”
“You would never have held onto it by yourself,” Isidore retorted. “You’d have been mugged in a matter of minutes if you hadn’t brought this stuff down to me.”
“Beloved, it’s all a matter of perspective; we’ll just have to agree to disagree,” Pence said. “Now, let’s survey your spoils, shall we? Food bars from Klia’s side of the fence—I hadn’t thought you did much business with her, she must really be desperate to get on your good side now,” he noted. “A bucket of water, pre-soaped from this morning’s ablutions courtesy of Rory. That was quite fucking heavy, by the way, my dove. It almost broke my back with its splish-splashing about.”
“Yet you persevered,” Isidore said dryly.
“Well, it’s rather a precious resource, isn’t it? I couldn’t very well spill it and let it go to waste. Speaking of spilling, there’s a canteen of drinking water in there was well, and some prodigious inventor even included a vial of what I can only suppose is…” Pence unscrewed the top of the medicine vial, took one sniff and promptly started coughing. “A bloody fucking paralytic,” he managed around his coughs. “Dear heart, take it before I spill it everywhere.”
Kyle got there before Isidore. He sniffed it, smiled, and then took a sip. Isidore could smell the pungent odor of the rotgut from five feet away; he could only imagine how absolutely foul it had to taste. “How can you possibly drink that?”
Kyle shrugged. “I went to prep school. Alcohol on site was forbidden, so we had to brew our own in secret. Meal bars were a good way to do it, actually, there’s lots of sugar in them. I got drunk off this stuff for the first time when I was fourteen.” He sipped again. “This is better than most of what I got back then, actually.”
“I never thought of prep school as such a dangerous place,” Pence said once he’d caught his breath. “Honestly, drinking that must be like getting kicked in the testicles, if your testicles reside in your throat. You’re a masochist of the first order, little lamb.” He cast a sly sidelong glance at Isidore. “My understanding of your preferences has just grown by leaps and bounds, petal. I’d let you hurt me if it truly made you happy.” He pointed at the half-full vial. “But not with that. Bind me, whip me, make me call you papa while you bugger me senseless, but leave that vile chemistry out of it.”
“Are you done?” Isidore demanded. “Because if that’s all, you can go.”
Pence frowned. “What, don’t I get a smidgeon of praise for bringing your gifts all this way? Can’t you spare me a soupçon of your regard and, possibly, your largesse for my efforts?”
“You can’t honestly tell me that you haven’t already lifted a meal bar or three from the stash you brought me.”
Pence grinned unrepentantly. “You know me so well, my dove! But only two, because I’m not a fool. Much more than that and someone would sniff me out. Still, I’d happily accept a kiss in exchange for my services.”
“You remind me of an old fairy tale,” Kyle said suddenly. “The frog prince. Only in this case you’re bringing your own golden ball to the princess and demanding that she take it in exchange for a kiss.”
“I like how you so easily cast your mentor in the role of princess. It speaks volumes about your level of comfort together,” Pence remarked. “And I think I’d rather be thought of as…Puss in Boots.”
Isidore wasn’t following, but whatever that meant made Kyle smile. “I can see that.”
“You’re a well-educated man,” Pence congratulated him before returning his attention to Isidore. “Now, darling. Please.”
Whether it was because Pence begged with such blatant insincerity, or because he could make Kyle grin, Isidore decided to be generous. Besides, it had been a long time since he’d seen this much water himself. “How about a hot bath?”
Pence’s eyes went wide. “Petal, don’t tease.”
“I’m serious. Faces, hands, underarms and groins only; this water has to last all three of us. And don’t even think about getting naked.”
“But you want me to very thoroughly clean my groin, don’t you?”
“Be as thorough as you like, just stay decent.” Isidore got his welding tool out and opened up the container of slightly gray water. A three-second blast should do it before too much of it went up in steam…he lowered the tip into the water, and then turned on the heat.
There was steam by the time he was done, thin, enticing tendrils floating off the top of the water, but almost none of the water was wasted. Pence and Kyle both moved in and dipped their fingertips simultaneously. Kyle seemed pleased, but the look of rapture on Pence’s face verged on orgasmic.
“Hot water,” he breathed. “I haven’t felt hot water since the last time I was forced into the showers. Two years ago now,” he added absently, missing or ignoring the look that Isidore and Kyle shared. “What bliss.”
Isidore sighed. Being nice probably wasn’t going to pay off in the long run, but he couldn’t help it. “You two go first. Don’t use it all.”
“Oh, darling.” The smile Pence turned on him was the most genuine expression he’d ever seen on the man. “You might have to tie me up to stop me, but I’ll try to be good. Thank you.”
Isidore nodded. “You’re welcome.”