Today’s Great NanoWrimo Prompt Call tale was prompted by my subconcious, i.e., it’s a dream written down. Cheers!
Content warning for: slavery, suggested violence, some actual violence and abuse, a good deal of objectification of at least one character.
I swear I posted this the other day, but it’s still in my drafts. Soooo again, apologies if this is a duplicate.
They were waiting, there wasn’t a better word for it. They were quiet, idle, sitting around the lounge. Except that he wasn’t sitting with the rest of them – neither he nor a couple of those who sympathized more with him, with what he was, had been, would be, than they did with the situation they found him in.
Gene had been haranguing her for long enough. She looked at the plans, found them – well, nauseating, but in the way that was expected and likely intended – and nodded.
She flipped to the next plan, found herself relaxing. It was nice to know that not everything they did was quite so bloodthirsty, quite so violent.
When Gene ceased the bothering, content that she’d paid enough attention to the plans, that she’d paid enough attention to the plans that she’d actually approved them (as if that would stop the Aboves, if she thought maybe something wasn’t just a little too far), she did what half the room had probably been waiting for her to do .
Things had been tense and weird since The Russian (he wasn’t) came on board. The team had gotten used to a certain way of operating (to plans that weren’t nauseating, to plans that worked without having to be quite so dirty) and the Russian – he came from Up Top, and he was political, political and brutal in a way that had nothing to do with the war that she, or most of the team, had thought they were fighting.
But he was here now, and Minerva had told them that they could not either ignore him or end him (“yet” was heavily implied) and that, for the moment, they needed to go along with his questioning, his ideas, and his plans. “Don’t get yourself killed” had been explicit, the rest was left very implied: “but let him see exactly how badly these plans will go. Let him report to Up Top that this stupid shit doesn’t work.”
All of that – the Russian, the pressure from Up Top, the fact that Minerva was clearly feeling pressure she wasn’t telling them about, if she was telling them to go along with an asshole like the Russian – it made things they’d ignored until now suddenly awfully awkward – the fact that at least four of their team were, in some way, Enemy sympathizers, the fact that the one sitting off to the side was a prisoner of war, a slave – and all of them were sitting around now, chewing on their lips, trying to pretend that they weren’t worried about what the Russian would say.
Even she felt like she was sneaking over to him – even though she more or less strode, giving the sympathizers time to scatter.
“Battle.” She started with that, because he wasn’t looking at her. He’d been angry with her lately in a way that she both understood and hated. “This next one is going to be brutal, but the one after that, we could bring you into that one. It wouldn’t be too bad.”
She had planned to leave it unspoken that they couldn’t wait longer than that; they’d been waiting too long already.
“I don’t really have a choice, do I?”
The collar was heavier around his neck than it had been two weeks ago – not a metaphor; Minerva must have known that there was someone from Up Top coming. This thing was heavy and steel and ugly. She made herself look at it. It was, after all, what they were talking about.
“You could… You could tell Minerva that you won’t fight. That you’re not a combatant.”
They’d captured him in combat.
“That you won’t do your thing in a combat situation. And accept the fact that she will – will likely sell you.”
They didn’t need clerks right then, they needed mages.
“Or pray that I win the lottery,” she muttered. They both knew the price that someone like him went for was more than her salary for a year, the way these things went right then.
He put both hands to the collar, shifting it as if trying to get comfortable. He still wouldn’t’ look at her.
“You-” The Russian strode in, Minerva beside him.
“Come on, boy, time to give us what you’ve got.” He grabbed the back of the collar, the back of his shirt, and dragged him, not giving him a chance to get to his feet.
“Stop it,” Minerva complained. “You’re hurting him.”
“And I’m going to hurt him more, aren’t I, if he doesn’t tell us what we need to know. Come on, boy.” The Russian was a big man and he was pulling his prey along without any difficulty; it wasn’t like the boy in question (not a boy, she didn’t say. He wasn’t that much older than boy. Most of them weren’t) had a chance to get to his feet.
She moved. She couldn’t protect him. It wasn’t her job to protect him. She couldn’t stop the Russian. But she could-
“Ah, there you are.” Minerva had seen her coming. She smiled that sharp and predatory thing that reassured her that the boss was, indeed, still actually in control of this shit show, whatever Up Top said. “I’ve been looking for you. The plans?”
“The first one was a mess, but Gene cleaned it up pretty well. It will do. The second one is a clean operation.” She hadn’t looked at the third one. They had to get through that first one before the third one would be a question. “We could use his help-” She gestured at him, dangling from the Russian’s hand, both of his own hands on the collar to give himself room to breathe. The Russian had, at least, stopped. “-on the second one. Tactically, it’s the better choice, if he’s willing.”
“Willing.” The Russian sneered. “I know what he is to you, girl, but he’s not one of your soldiers. He’s the enemy.”
“He is one of our soldiers now. He’s one of us now.” She stepped up close to the Russian and forced him to look her in the eye.
He seemed completely uncowed, of course. She was pretty sure that was his job. “Just because you’ve been fucking him doesn’t make him one of us, or my left hand would be a soldier, too.”
It was crude, and she thought it was meant to make her flinch. Instead she held his gaze and told him, in a language that, of everyone in the lounge, only she and Minerva spoke: “If you hurt him again, I will end you. It will take time, but I will hunt you down and I will rend you in two.”
Minerva cleared her throat. The Russian’s hand lifted up slowly, giving the captive a moment to get to his feet.
“Don’t worry. I’ll bring him back to you soon.” His sneer had faltered a little. She thought she would take that as a win.
She watched him lead her lover from the room, grabbed the nearest heavy thing – a paperweight – and flung it against the wall at full force.
The team looked at her, panting. None of them looked at the crater in the wall.
Something had just changed, and even the Russian knew it.
This was pretty damn close to the dream.
There was one scene later that didn’t fit in. It went something like –
The Russian put the ice cream back in the freezer. “Don’t worry. There’s still plenty left.” He sneered in her general direction. “And don’t worry. I didn’t put any new marks on your boy-toy. The only damage done to him is what you did.”
She stared at him, thinking of the bruises littering the skinny body, marks everywhere. She’d left a couple marks, yes. A bite on the shoulder, that sort of thing.
Something in her stomach dropped.
“If it wasn’t you-”
The Russian scooped ice cream from the box in the freezer. She already knew the answer. Minerva’s men had been doing it.
Like what you’re reading?
Join my Patreon/tip me and
Leave me a Prompt!