Title: Redstone Chapter 18, Part 1
As soon as Isidore woke up, he knew something was wrong. Going down hadn’t been a surprise; Wyl had signaled that the prison was going to be gassed today, and Isidore had been careful to keep them down in the heart of the prison, veins prickling but heart easy in the knowledge that he, Kyle and, frustratingly, Pence would be safe from the chaos that was certain to emerge when people started waking up.
Pence’s adoption of their living quarters—not all the time, because after a while the iron got to him, but for a few hours every cycle—was annoying but not, Isidore had to admit, the worst thing he’d ever experienced. The man was a gifted storyteller and kept Kyle distracted, and he had more than a few skills that might be useful under the right circumstances. Not that it really mattered; as soon as Garrett had the information that Hummingbird was stealing out from under the nose of the Warden, he’d be able to negotiate for Kyle’s release. Perhaps another week, two at the outside, and they’d be free of this place. Pence wouldn’t be, though.
He’d given up the story of how he’d come to be here so easily that Isidore was more than half convinced it wasn’t true, but it was entertaining nonetheless. “I lived footloose and fancy free in the Central System for years,” he’d expounded while Isidore and Kyle had worked their way through some sticky meal bars. “Thanks to the help of a brilliant little bug I wrote, I worked out who in whatever city I’d have the best luck imitating, then did a bit of work on my appearance and passed myself off as them for a while. Businessmen, trust-funders, even politicians: people will give you a lot of leeway if they think you’re someone important. I hardly ever had to provide identification, in the small provinces. It was a glorious scam,” he said with a pleased sigh.
“Of course, eventually I imitated the wrong man. He caught me at it, actually; I was in one of his penthouses. He was supposed to be gone, but.” Pence shrugged. “Such is life. And after a bit of wrangling, I ended up here.”
“This doesn’t seem like the right place for someone who basically committed identity theft,” Kyle said doubtfully.
“Very astute, little lamb.” Pence refused to elaborate any further, though, but he gave them a wink to soften the lie. When they all fell down the next day, the sleeping gas working too fast for much preparation, Isidore spared a brief thought for how he might actually miss Pence once he and Kyle were out of here.
Pence was the farthest thing from Isidore’s mind when he woke up though, for all the man was mumbling a blue streak over knocking his head against the floor when he’d gone under. There was too much noise filtering down the passage, way too much for the aftermath of a gassing. This wasn’t prisoners fighting it out amongst themselves; this was a concerted effort by many against a few, and if he focused Isidore thought he could detect the whine of bot gears shifting too abruptly to be quiet.
“Fuck.” Something was wrong in the Pit, really wrong. His mind told him the best thing to do was wait down here where it was safe and ride it out, but his instincts were screaming at him to move. He reached out and shook Kyle’s shoulder; he was already awake, just looked a little blurry. Pence was still on his back, affected more by the gas. “Come on, we have to move.”
To his credit, Kyle just nodded. Isidore helped get him to his feet, then led the way down the hall, disruptor firmly in hand. If they were being swarmed by bots right now…
But no, no they weren’t. There was a swarm, for sure, but it was prisoners on guards. Isidore held Kyle back at the entrance to the Pit, staring disconcertedly out at the carnage taking place. It looked like two separate fights had been going on, although one was already over; he could smell the blood in the air, even if there wasn’t much to see over the wave of bodies. The other guard was still on his feet, but he had only one bot left. It was inevitable he’d die, at this point, despite how fiercely he…fought…
Recognition hit Isidore like a shot to the heart, and he actually lurched forward a step before he got control of himself again. Isidore recognized that fighting style; he’d seen it back on Paradise when he’d been a mechanic working on the Federation forces’ fleet of vehicles. Robbie. That was Robbie, which mean something had gone terribly, awfully wrong.
“What is it?” Kyle murmured, staying discreet even though he was clearly disturbed by the scene.
“Give me a moment; I need to think.” He couldn’t do anything, he couldn’t. Protecting Robbie wasn’t his mission. He had to take care of Kyle.
The bot went down, and Robbie was bowled over after another few seconds of fighting like a madman. Isidore almost bit through his tongue when he lost sight of him. No, no, nonono—
Then Rory happened, saving the day only to ruin things himself. Isidore knew he was breathing too fast, knew even as Kyle tugged at his arm, worried and wondering, that he was going to do it. He was going to spoil everything because he couldn’t just watch this, he wouldn’t. He’d sooner die himself.
“Stick with Pence,” Isidore heard himself say, the sound feeling very far away as he walked into the room. “Garrett will get you out.” He reached a hand up to his mouth, toward the tooth that would cause a big enough explosion to take out a good half of the people in the Pit. Rory wasn’t looking at him; no one was, all the focus on Robbie and the macabre scene playing out between the two men. He could do this. He had to.
The second before Isidore activated the grenade in his head, a shower of sparks erupted from the main door. It clanged to the ground a moment later, and a security bot rolled into the room. This bot was like none Isidore had ever seen, though; it had some weapons sticking out of it that were downright illegal for security bots, and even as Isidore ducked, it started to fire a mini-laser which burned tiny, perfect holes straight through people. “Alert! Alert! Sound the alarm! Alert! Alert! Sound the alarm!” it blared over and over, burning a swathe through the prisoners who dared to move toward it. It reached Robbie’s side and tore him out of Rory’s slack, astonished grasp, picking him up and cradling him even as it injected a syringe straight into Robbie’s neck. “There there. There there. There there.”
Rory growled and reached for Robbie again, and had a hole burned through his hand for his trouble. All around the Pit people were groaning in pain, most of them alive but all of them wounded. The bot swirled its head in a circle, eyestrip glowing menacingly as it surveyed the prisoners. It paused on Isidore, but moved on after a moment. “There there. There there. There there,” it repeated as it turned and rolled right out of the gaping hole it had left in the Pit, taking Robbie with it.
“What the bloody hell is going on here, petal?”
Pence’s voice shocked Isidore out of his fugue. He shook his head, silent as he weighed his options. This was…a fucking mess, was what it was. No guards were rushing in to shut things down, more than half the prison population was going to need Regen for bot-inflicted burns, and Robbie was possibly gravely injured. If Isidore waited to do this all the right way, the closest to legal way, there very well might be new leadership in place that would refuse any and all requests for transfers while they figured out what the hell had just gone down.
Isidore couldn’t take that risk. If not even Robbie was safe, then there was no way Kyle would survive that long, especially not with the prisoners in a state of upheaval. And besides…the door was open.
Isidore reached out and grabbed Kyle’s hand. “We’re getting out of here,” he said. He could still see the bot in the distance. If they stuck close to it, they could follow it through the doors. From there, he’d be able to find his way to the hangar. Robbie and Wyl’s ship would open to him, and if anyone was going to forgive him for an act of piracy, it was them. “Come on.”
Another hand found his. “You’re not going anywhere without me, darling,” Pence said grimly.
“Then shut up and keep up,” Isidore said, and he tugged them into a run as he chased down the bot. Hopefully it wouldn’t turn around and shoot him when it saw the three of them behind it.
Surprisingly, the bot led the way straight to the ship hangar. Wyl was already there, completely blind to everything except Robbie as he lurched forward toward his husband. “ZeeBee, status!”
“Alive and recovering. Currently, he is under the influence of Regen. Expected return to consciousness in three-point-seven standard hours.”
“Oh.” Wyl shuddered and leaned against the bot’s sturdy body, bringing his head close to Robbie’s. “All right. All right. Fuck, it’s all right.”
“Not completely,” Isidore said. He could see it took effort, but Wyl eventually lifted his head and looked at him. “Hi.”
“Oh. Oh, shit, Isidore!” He was being hugged before he could stop it, something that was sure to cause conniptions in the central security room, but Isidore couldn’t care less. “Fuck, are you okay? What are you doing here?”
“Seizing the day,” Isidore said, feeling a little like falling apart now that he was in friendly arms. “There’s bound to be an inquest, they’ll ask questions, it isn’t safe—it never was, but now—”
“No, you’re right,” Wyl agreed, finally letting him go to look at his companions. “Mr. Alexander. And…”
“Pence, mate.” He almost sounded normal. “Just Pence.”
Wyl looked at Isidore. “He’s with you?”
“He is now.” Whether Isidore wanted it or not, apparently.
“Then he’ll come along. Let’s kick this shithole to the curb. ZeeBee,” Wyl addressed the bot, “get Robbie situated in the ship. You guys, follow him. I’ll be right there.”
“What are you going to do?” Isidore asked.
Wyl smiled darkly. “Since there’s no reason to be subtle anymore, I’m gonna kill every fucking camera and tracking system in this fucking place before we leave. Let them try to send someone after us once I’ve punched their eyes out. Go, go.” He waved them toward his and Robbie’s little ship, then headed to the nearest control panel.
Isidore followed ZeeBee on board, still clinging to Kyle and Pence. They settled into the tight quarters right behind the pilot’s chair, and Pence turned to Isidore with a raised eyebrow. “Interesting friends you’ve got, my dove.”
“You have no idea,” Isidore said dryly.
“We’re really leaving?” Kyle asked. He sounded dumbfounded. “Right now?”
“It’s an opportunity we might not get again.”
“But what about my lawyer? And what about—” He stopped speaking when Isidore shook his head.
“They’ll weather the storm better than we would. This is just a course change, Kyle. We’re not throwing away the map.”
“What map, pet?”
Isidore breathed a sigh of relief when Wyl joined them, firing up the engines and heading for the nearest airlock, which opened obediently to his command. “The one that leads to the end.”
Whatever that was, now.