Ela scraps – The cage

“So what is anti-social sex anyway?  I’ve been afire with curiosity ever since I read that in your file I must admit.  I see plenty of murderers and thieves come through here, but anti-social sex?  What would that possibly even mean?  The mind swims.”

The voice dimly tapping around the edges of my consciousness was a woman’s voice but I bet stupid people think it’s a man’s voice sometimes.  It’s a good contralto for sure but there’s no mistaking it if you’re paying even a little bit of attention.  Which hardly anyone ever does.

“Fwaaaaaa” was my response. 

“You were pretty doped up for the trip, take a minute to gather your wits.  I have time.”

I fell asleep on a hammock once.  When I woke up my arms and legs were checked with little rope mark squares.  It stung a little but it wasn’t so bad.  You know what is bad?  Having that same experience only from lying on a metal grate, or like a wire cage, or whatever the hell I was in, for who knows how many hours.  I was in pain once I was able to remember what pain was but I was afraid to move because I knew it would be worse once I pulled myself free.  I could feel blood dripping off my cheek. 

“Just do it” said the voice “like ripping off an adhesive bandage.   Going slow will only make it worse.  Roll to your right, there’s a shift over there.  They’re supposed to put you on those so you don’t get all cut up by the cage but they never bother to aim, they just dump you all in the barrel like dead fish.”

I sat up with a groan, peeling my flesh out of the little metal grooves it had been forced into.  It hurt but not as bad as I expected.  To me a shift is a dress, but I guess to the voice a shift is a super thin, not even mattress I would call it, piece of material that’s roughly the size of a person.  Maybe it’s a rug.  Aside from myself it was the only thing in what looked to be a wire cage, reminded me of a chicken coop, in a massive stack with other cages forming some manner of hypercube.  There were people in some of the other cages but not all of them, not even most of them.  A few of them were shouting but most of them were just sitting on their rugs not moving or saying anything. 

“What?  What is this?”

“If this place has a name I don’t know what it is.  A prison of some kind obviously.  You’re lucky, you’re on the top corner, not too many neighbors.  When I was in the cage the fucker above me pissed on me whenever he was mad, which was often.”

I looked around “Where are you?”

“Somewhere else.  I don’t really know the layout of the facility, I just know where they put me like everyone else.  Look in the corner straight ahead, there’s a box where water and what they claim is food comes from, my voice comes from there too.”

I stared at the food-speaker thing in the opposite corner “Why am I here?”

“You’ve been convicted of a crime, the crime of anti-social sex in your case which I really do want to get into the details of, but the good news is that even a worthless criminal reprobated like you can still be of service to the state.  You can either stay in that cage and rot or we can start training.  After three weeks on intensive work that will surely make you a competent killing machine you will be deployed to a deathworld to retrieve some valuable piece of government property that has gone missing.  If you somehow manage to pull that off you only need to do it nine more times and then congratulations, you get to move up in the world and become a trainer for others.  Like I’m doing now.  And if you have ten trainees that advance to being trainers themselves then you win your freedom, isn’t that nice?   That’s what my trainer told me anyway.  I have my doubts that it’s actually true, they probably just keep promising you stuff forever but there’s not much choice for us now is there?”

I shook my head, trying to wake up from this nightmare “What?”

The voice chuckled humorlessly “It’s a lot to take in all at once I know, especially when you’re foggy in the head from being pumped full of sedatives.  I get it.  I’ve been where you are.  We can go over all this again, and again if you want, as many times as it takes, we’ve got nothing but time.  The bottom line is you have a choice, because our grand and glorious government would never take away our freedom of choice no matter what weird crime you’re guilty of committing.  You can stay in that cage until you go insane and kill yourself, or you can undertake a dangerous combat mission for which you are in no way qualified and which is very likely result in your death for the slim chance that maybe this isn’t all bullshit and you can get out.  That’s the long version.”

“What’s the short version?”

“You’re screwed.”

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