Mira rocked back on her heels with her forearms folded across her shins. She counted the days off, keeping part of her mind apart, counting everything down in units of her own design. Exhaustion leached the will from her in small, sharp bites but she had her hate to keep her warm.
HOW’S IT GOING IN THERE?’
Paul’s voice went off like a bomb. Mira closed her eyes and grunted with the discomfort. She opened her eyes and glared at the wall. There were no joins or purchase to be made. No one visited apart from Paul. He had started off pleasant, but as she continued to resist, his tone remained cheerful but his frustration revealed a sharp malevolence in the volume he used.
‘IF YOU’D JUST ACCEPT OUR TERMS, YOU CAN WALK OUT OF HERE TODAY.’
She squeezed her eyes shut and pulled her lips back over her teeth as she shook her hair out.
Her bravado was genuine in short stretches. The torture would break her, she knew, because it broke everyone but instead Paul would ask, she would tell it to fuck off and it would go. The isolation made her thoughts bank to the left like a plane in a storm but deep inside her, she nestled a tight bud of bitterness. She would be free or die trying. There was a war on.
There was always a war on.
Her pack of sisters had been planting plastique spikes in the foundations of Science Cities along the eastern seaboard. They used magnetic propulsion boards to get in under the surveillance but ran into a solid ambush which took out three of them in the first wave and another four in the second. Mira was disabled with a sonic cannon, tuned to a frequency which resonated with the gut, made her fall over, barking out vomit and crying with the pain before the soldiers picked her up and tossed her into the back of a transport.
She woke up inside the egg and started counting.
Over the first few weeks, she had retrieved a small comma of pork bone, sharpened by gnawing on it when the lights were out and then slipping it back against the small of her back, slick and cold but possessed of definition by her actions. Mira would have to get up close, aim for the soft parts and punch the bone knife in hard and fast before moving on.
Today represented her 272nd day of captivity. Mira wondered if she could trust her sense of time, but it kept her from going soft, even if she were just logged into a cognitive-temporal loop, meat wired up which meant her caveman knife was a useless affectation. Mira nursed the discomfort as proof she was present in her own body, most simulations established a pleasant baseline and here she treasured each cramp and pang as proof of autonomy.
‘BECAUSE, MIRA, WE’VE GONE AS FAR AS WE CAN BEING POLITE, ESPECIALLY WITH YOU BEING A LOW YIELD ASSET.’
‘Then fucking shoot me.’ she said.
Paul laughed and it made Mira coil up as her head rang with the bright pain of excessive volume, like the world had become the bass bin at a metal concert. Her stomach lurched and she swallowed hot, acidic bile until the sensation passed.
‘IT’S BEEN FUN MIRA, BUT YOU HAVE A BIT OF TIME TO DECIDE BEFORE WE ESCALATE.’
The silence rushed in, cool and soft but she stayed on her haunches until the pain and nausea passed.
Mira called down each hour into being by force of will, then let it pass without regret. She went through the labour in silence and as the eighth hour passed, a section of the smooth white wall softened and opened, an organic aperture through which stepped a functionary dressed in grey overalls and carrying a baton, crackling with blue light.
She stood up, stretched out her hamstrings and launched forwards, hand reaching for the bone knife and swinging her arm to aim for the functionary’s unshaven, flaccid throat. His face was clownish with surprise, but he brought the baton up, ready to catch her on top of her head and put her down. Mira had waited for this, despite the discomfort and endurance, here was where she felt most alive.
The bone knife punched through skin and windpipe as Mira turned into the blow and kicked him in the knee, breaking it with a wet snap which toppled the functionary over. She did not watch him fall, but instead snatched up the baton and sprinted for the door in the wall. Mira had seconds to make it and as she slipped towards the warm, pulsing darkness.
The tunnel teemed with humid perspiration whilst pearlescent ropes of fibre hung overhead, sending data and power through the complex. Mira turned the baton in her hand as the alarms began to scream.
She made out echoes of voices, the soft beep of attentive machines along the corridor and she moved towards them, heart racing and each limb shivering with the anticipation of violence. Another section of the corridor was padded with thick slabs of scarlet muscle, dilating and throbbing in sequence to close the distance. She made it halfway through before the muscles closed around her and she was forced to rely on what strength remained within her.
She shut her eyes and shoved forwards. The baton slipped from her grasp before she could use it on the muscles crushing her between them and she fought for every inch of progress she made.
‘THAT’S IT, MIRA. FIGHT FOR IT.’
Paul’s voice was loud but it did not hurt anymore. She kept fighting and pushing until her lungs burned and her hair was plastered to her scalp with sweat. The edges of her vision blurred as she felt herself relinquish her grasp of time. The muscles were massaging her between them, coating her in a thin film which began to shrink and tighten, contorting her limbs and tugging her hair away in gelid clumps. A scream brought it inside her mouth, softening her teeth into a thick paste which she spat away, nerves sizzling in an orchestra of agony.
Mira fought until there was nothing left. Diminished and mutated, she gave a last cry of defiance as she compacted down and all she was fled away.
They passed her over, tiny lungs working at their fullest. Denise sobbed with relief and joy as she watched her daughter with utter awe. She looked up, trembling with too much emotion at her lover, who stood there, struggling not to weep and reduced to a reverent silence. Her Mira had arrived and it was all worth it.
‘She’s perfect, Paul, you had nothing to worry about.’ she said.
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