The Aged Cell

The ride to Rudia, the now-defunct prison planet thanks to Mack, would take months to get to and another three days to find the entrance to the prison’s actual entrance among the seemingly neverending dust storms.  Anxiety started to settle into Mack as time grew closer to landing.

Mack sat in their chair, watching the blackness of space drift by.  They had been traveling for months now, the prison planet still 3 months away.

“This is such bullshit.  I HAVE THIS SWEET ASS BIKE AND I HAVEN’T BEEN ABLE TO RIDE IT FOR 7 MONTHS, THIS IS T O R T U R E.  DO YOU HEAR ME!?”

Zahari giggled, hearing Mack screaming from down the hall.

~

Heels clicked on the floor, following behind a wheelchair.  An elderly woman with skin the color and wrinkles of old leather and suede sat in the chair, their assistant pushing them.

“Good morning, Madam President,” the guard at the desk said, smiling and tipping his head.  The old woman smiled at him and waved a frail hand at him.  Once passed, she rolled her eyes.

“He must be new.  Have management address that he is never to talk to me,” she said as her assistant pushed her outside.

“Of course,” the assistant said.

A limo pulled up, the driver rushing to get the old woman in.  She sighed.

“This body… I hate it.  It has creaks.  I never wanted to be this old,” she murmured, leaning back into the seat.  The assistant said nothing, turning on the monitor in front of their charge. The old woman dusted off her suit jacket, the assistant reaching over and straightening buttons, collars, and hair.  They sat back as the monitor started to load in the face of Mack Truck.

“Are you in position?” the old woman asked, staring at the hardened face of this Mack model.

“Yes, ma’am.  The meeting is still taking place.  You would only be fashionably late.”

“Mm, have the driver take the scenic route.”

Mack Truck smirked and nodded.  “Yes, ma’am.  Buzz is in position as well with the sniper.”

“Buzz?”  The old woman raised an eyebrow.

Mack Truck’s smile disappeared.  “MACK 3, ma’am.  Sorry, ma’am.”

The old woman huffed and shifted in her seat, cutting the connection.  Her assistant shook their head, red hair cut into a bob so sharp, the stylist nearly cut themselves.

They arrived at the destination an hour and a half late.  A big barrel of a man opened the door, the assistant the first to step their red heels onto the concrete.  They helped roll the old woman out of the limo, the barrel man coming up with a wheelchair.  He walked ahead, as the assistant pushed behind.  The building was small and inconspicuous in a warehouse district, security only roaming the front.

The inside was spacious and nearly empty.  The assistant pushed the old woman towards the center of the room, where a group of men dressed in various colored suits talked amongst themselves.  A man in a red suit looked up and smiled broadly, holding his arms out in greeting.

“Well, if it isn’t the love of my life!” he called out, walking over to the woman, hands in his pockets.  He bent down and kissed her cheek, her returning the greeting.

“It’s been a while,” he said, smiling at her, telling his men to come forward with a motion from his head.  The group of 4 men slowly walked over, one of them holding onto a heavy case.

“I suppose things went well,” the old woman said, taking a quick glance at the case, looking up at the man in red.

“Oh, swimmingly, ma’am!”

“Locked,” Mack Truck whispered, eye squinting through the sight of a rifle.

“Beautiful,” the old woman said.  Who she was responding to didn’t matter.

“And who is this, if I may inquire?” the man in red asked, walking over to the assistant, looking them up and down.  The assistant stood back from the chair, smiling, letting the man eye them like candy.

“Is she new?” he asked, holding a hand under his chin, eyes watering like his mouth.

“They’re a newer model, yes,” the old woman said, suddenly irritated.

“Damn, when are you gonna roll out this model?  I would like seven.”  He and his crew laughed.  The old lady sighed.

“What can she do?” he asked, standing back in front of the old woman.

“Well, shoot–”

A bullet grazed by the assistant’s ear, hitting the leader square in the forehead, blood, and viscera spraying his goons behind him.

“She kills people,” the old lady finished.  Before one of the goons could get his finger on the trigger, the assistant was on him in a flash, a hidden knife that was secured in their garter belt now at his throat, cutting into his artery.   The assistant hopped out of the way of the spray, flipping and handspringing to the other five men, slicing, dicing and stabbing as they tried to figure out what in the entire fuck was going on.

The assistant wiped the blood off her knife on one of the dead bodies before straightening out their skirt and pushing the old woman out of the building, walking passed the dead body of the guard, loading her into the limo and driving off without a second thought.

~

“We should be within range of the storm,” Zahari said, helping Mack load up the bike with supplies and a week’s worth of clothes.  She doubled up on some of the rations, even though she knew Mack didn’t really need that much food.  Even the “standard” rations for someone of Mack’s size was still too much and take the fact that Mack was a fucking super soldier

Zahari shook her head, ignoring the intrusive thoughts about what Mack needed to eat as a person.  She stood up, her deteriorating hip screaming in pain.  The plan was to immediately head to Dr. Mishka’s practice and get Zahari into surgery.  It was Mack’s idea.  When Mack was still rightfully pissed at Zahari, Mack still shot the idea Rihal about what they were going to do after Mack got the information they needed from the prison.  Even Rihal was surprised at the notion.

“You good?” Mack asked, placing a hand on Zahari’s shoulder.  “Do you need to sit?”  Zahari waved Mack away, walking over to their helmet and tossing it to them.

“I’ll try to stay close to the storm in case shit hits the fan.  Rihal has a squad on stand by,” she said, double-checking the straps on the bike.  “Are you sure you’ll be fine?”

Zahari wouldn’t be able to talk to keep in touch with Mack once the storm passed over the prison.  You couldn’t map the storm like on some other planets; the eye changed constantly depending on where it decided to move on the planet.  The prison, however, was north enough for the eye to pass over a mountain ridge that held the entrance, the storm still rough but tolerable.  From there was a 20-mile drive deeper into the mountain.  The bus would then pass by a giant, iridescent mineral that would be speckled with prisoners chipping away at the rock that formed around it.

“Yes, I’ll be fine, I promise, mom,” Mack said, rolling their eyes, pushing the bike onto the transport ship.  They did a final patdown, ears, neck, wrist, waist, thigh, ankle.

“Buds, mic, time, gun, knife, other gun,” Mack murmured, nodding at Zahari.

Zahari nodded back, closing the hatch to the transport ship.  The window between launch and landing before the storm worsened was five hours top and the transport ship had to land and be back at the main ship in that amount of time.  Mack stood near their bike, turning on their buds, testing the mic, letting Zahari know that everything was in working order and that the pictures will probably be few and far between.  Mack slid the helmet over their head, hopping onto the bike, kicking it and the helmet on.  Zahari had managed to sync up the visor Rihal had given Mack at the party and the bike.  Mack took a deep breath as the transport ship landed, jerking them around.  The hatch opened slowly, the red and brown dirt of Rudia blowing into the ship.  Mack took off, zipping through the narrow path on the mountain cliff.

“Send the ship back, I have landed!  See you in a week!”  Mack held their wrist up and flicked it.  Zahari got a notification a moment later; it was a selfie of Mack covered in dust.

The storm was rather calm, unlike the one Mack rode in on the first time they came here. Rudia wasn’t really a planet talked about much.  It was just a prison planet that had survived as such for eons until folk decided to blow it up.  The wind picked up a bit.  Mack looked at their watch.

“Gotta stop being a tourist,” they whispered, speeding up. They had an hour to get inside before the storm would sweep them away and leave them for dead somewhere.  The visor flickered and beeped, a yellow line mazing through the rock toward the entrance only 35 minutes away.  When Mack pulled up, they shuddered, the air and wind feeling like it didn’t exist there.  The entrance glass was still holding, despite the constant storming in front of and the explosions that happened behind them.  Mack walked their bike to the entrance, staring at a dust-covered number pad. Mack’s chest suddenly got tight, but they remembered the code: 7 4 3 1

Mack slowly walked inside as the glass opened up, the darkness coming to life as the emergency power turned itself back on.  When the glass sealed itself shut and the pressure finished hissing as it normalized the area inside, Mack took off their helmet, clipping it to the side of the bike, stepping on rock and years old dust.  They took a deep breath and screamed, listening to the echo. Their heart raced, the idea of being back in this place bringing back memories.  But here they were, staring at the red-brown dirt that started to light up with emergency lights.  They walked off to the left, going inside the dimly lit processing office.  They flipped on a flashlight that was clasped to their jacket, looking for any signs of a note or … something that would tell Mack what happened all those years ago.  They tried to turn on the computer.  Nothing.  The emergency power probably only turned on the lights and other vital systems that were inside the compound.  They stepped back out to the entrance, got back on their bike and made their way in and down into the mountain.

The tunnel’s dimly lit emergency lights still weren’t bright enough to light the whole thing.  Critters had scurried in front of the bike’s own light, probably coming in from the hole that still stood… Probably.  Mack had turned off their music, listening to the hum of the bike and the movement of small rock underneath the wheels.  They were 5 miles into their 20-mile drive when the faint noise of a klaxon popped up.

“I really hope that hasn’t been going off for almost 10 years,” they mumbled.

10 miles, 15 miles, the klaxon got louder and louder.  Mack winced as the tunnel opened up, the klaxon screaming, the emergency lights reflecting off the busted and shattered iridescent rock that they were made to dig out all those years ago. It was still nestled into the rock, a big chunk of it on the ground, old bloodstains leaking out from under it.

Seeing the blood on the walls made the klaxon turn off in Mack’s ears, the old carnage making their stomach drop.  They passed by tens of dead bodies on the ramp as they drove deeper and deeper into the prison.  They barely glanced at the red jumpsuits of people they called mates, not wanting to ruin the timed mission they were on.  If they took out the time to bury the people they had called friends, they would have been here longer than their allotted week.  The people who risked their lives deserved to be remembered, but sadly it wasn’t the time.

As they pulled up to another office, Mack stared up the large rock, their reflection tiny on it.  It seemed to be weeping.  With what, Mack didn’t want to find out.  They hopped off their bike and walked towards it anyway, taking pictures of it before going back to the office.  The computer in here did  work this time.  As Mack waited for the outdated machine to boot up, they opened up cabinets and drawers, looking through papers and files, looking for any sort of information about anything.

They put aside papers that had the sigil that graced Zahari’s implant, a small stack of 10 papers.  As the computer dinged that it was on, Mack stared at the login screen.

“Fuck.”  They patted themselves down, opening a pocket on their pants, pulling out a USB and sliding it into the computer.  The computer whirred as the program on it started to work through the login.  The screen changed, going to the home screen, two programs the only things on the desktop.  Mack sat in the dusty chair, clicking open the program that listed all of the inmates and their stats.

Dead, dead, dead…  The red marks went on for pages.  Mack stopped at one

Ruella “Stick Stone” Mithora
Alive

Mack stared at the screen.  “That can’t be right…” They clicked on the name, opening Stone’s profile.  Mack’s eyes went wide as they read the file.  They saved the information to the USB, took a picture of it just in case before continuing through the list, finding Zahari and their own file.  They saved the information as well, before closing the program and opening up the other one.  This one was dates of inmates coming in, inmates dying, staff information and schedules, “donations” from benefactors and other paper trails that would fetch a polished quarter in the hands of Rihal.  Mack saved this, too, removing the USB before putting in another one that fried that computer.

They got up and left the room, their mind still stuck on Stick Stone’s information.

“How could she be pushing 200?”

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