SEVEN DEADLY SINS
I would have this one, would make him my possession; he is older than most who catch my fancy, his hair silvering as only the aging ones experience, his face revealing its past history as clearly as though it were a road map of a life lived hard and fast. I like that; it excites me beyond measure to contemplate taking one who has known such hardship, one who has undoubtedly performed actions of violence and evil in the course of his life. It will make it more difficult, breaking in one such as he is; but the end result will be well worth the trouble. I will have him on his knees, I will hurt him and take him with a brutality he will grow to appreciate, to crave. He will serve me well, and when I have had enough...Well. There is always a new one to come along, always a variety of bodies to break and use. With him it will be no different; but I will enjoy myself tremendously for as long as he lasts.
If that motherfucker doesn't stop smiling at me like that, I'm going to snap these stupid leather wrist restraints like they were paper, jump this rail, and kick his ugly, leering face in. I know his type, I've seen it all before; and if he thinks he is EVER gonna stick his dick up MY ass, he's got another think coming. I'll castrate you, you bastard; how would that be? It's been a really shitty week, and I am in NO mood for this crap.
Jesus, it's hot in here, and if I don't see Daniel's face appear through that door in the next five seconds, I will NOT be held accountable for my actions. Why the hell does this always happen, why can't we just--ONE FREAKING TIME--go through the gate and end up somewhere NICE? Somewhere normal. Okay, sure--if I'm perfectly honest, we have had our share of 'normal' missions, have run into plenty of perfectly decent folks; I know I'm being somewhat pissy right now. But I don't really give a shit--THIS mission, which was supposed to be so easy, so routine, has gone to hell in a handbasket faster than that sick fuck over there could flash his hard-on at me. And suddenly I'm standing here asking myself WHY; why am I still doing this, still carting my arthritic, steadily aging carcass through goddamned wormholes just so I can become the erotic tidbit of the day for pervs like that one. I mean, I'm no ugho, I do have SOME pride about myself; but for Christ's sake, look at me! I just don't get it, why some of these wankers seem to think I'm the answer to their every wet dream. And that mother fucker had damned well better NOT look at Daniel that way, or I swear to God...
Daniel. Jeez, it's about time. What the hell have they been doing to you, saying to you? He's a bit pale but appears basically okay, no signs of torture or molestation or any of about a hundred other gruesome scenarios my overactive imagination has been conjuring up while we were separated. God, if anyone lays so much as one finger on him in front of me...! Get a grip, Jackie Boy, tone down that famous O'Neill temper. Daniel's a big boy, he can take care of himself...and if he can't, there's not a hellava lot you can do about it at this point. So...just play it cool, wait for what comes next and be ready, always ready.
God, but I want to pull his face in close to mine now, take those smooth-shaven cheeks between my hands and suck his tongue into my mouth, taste and feel and breathe him in...I love him so damned much, and that's another reason this shit has got to stop; it's too hard to stay impartial, too hard to act like there's nothing especially intimate going on between the two of us. It's just always THERE, this frisson of sensual awareness stretching like a gossamer thread from my soul to his; and in sticky situations like the one we now find ourselves in, that can work against us in a big, fat hurry. Most people--especially races and cultures who aren't familiar with our own--don't notice anything in particular about the interactions between Daniel and me; but sometimes we get into situations like this one, where sex and violence and subjugation seem to be the watchword. And in societies like this, it's almost impossible to keep our partnership--our bonding--secret. It's like the natives in these societies have some sort of ultra-sensitive radar about Daniel and me, and that is not even close to being a comfortable thing. Not when slavery, coercion, and sado-masochism seem to go hand-in-hand with what these types deem to be acceptable sexual behavior.
"Jack?" His voice comes softly to me over the heads of several fellow captives, and I give him the smallest, grimmest shake of my head in reply. No; don't talk, don't give them ANYTHING. Not a look, not a word, that they can use against us, that they can use to get inside our heads and hearts. It's all just business as usual, just another day of fighting off slimy bastards who can't seem to keep their hands off either my leathery old bod or Daniel's incredible physique. Who'd have thunk it...O'Neill and Jackson, pin-up models for every intergalactic sex fiend that comes along. God, I can feel a huge, honking migraine coming on now, and me without even a Tylenol. It's gonna be one of those days.
I have always had a good eye for the best chattel; since I was a young boy learning the trade at my father's knee, I have had something of a penchant for picking only the best. And today is no different; I knew as soon as I saw him--herded in with a crop of truly abysmal offerings, I might add--that he had qualities to outshine all the others he had been tossed in with so carelessly. Of course, any small refinements he might already possess will be so miniscule in scope as to require an almost complete overhaul of his mind and spirit before he will be ready for sale; but at least with this one there is a glimmer of promise, the hope of molding him into a serviceable drone at some point in the near future.
I pride myself on my excellent taste and discernment in picking drones and have built quite a lucrative practice by utilizing my many talents in the area of companion procuratorship. And for this newest one I already have grand plans. He is the one my gentleman master Jamin should have (though in my expert opinion, the 'gentleman' in question is himself only one or two steps above those he buys and uses so indiscriminately).
Ah well, no matter; my wits and keen powers of observation have served me well yet again, and within a fortnight I foresee an incredible wealth of new riches falling into my hands through Jamin's pleased largesse. Yes, this one will do nicely; and no one here would dare to usurp my rights as first bidder on Jamin's behalf. I am the best; I deserve the highest accolades and acclaim for the job I do. I am confident the way is clear ahead of me for my purchase of this pathetic bundle of humanity; it will be a source of personal pride and pleasure to transform him into a useful commodity whose sole purpose will lie in fulfilling Jamin's rather predatory needs.
I don't like this, don't like being separated from Jack when things are going downhill so fast. I understand that we've been taken to some kind of market for human flesh, if you will; it's not like we haven't already been there, done that. But it never gets any easier, never becomes routine or more bearable with each successive run-through. God, I am so NOT in the mood to be dressed up like some virginal harem girl and led off in chains to some fat, hairy goon with erectile dysfunction and a whole lot of mad to work off on my vulnerable flesh...
I know what Jack is thinking right about now, how pissed off and worried he's undoubtedly becoming as this separation stretches out between us. All sorts of depraved, illicit thoughts must be rampaging through his head right about now, and the sad thing is, 99.9% of them are probably spot-on accurate.
We've been through this enough times to know that my so-called virtue--not to mention my very heart and soul--will likely be up for sale soon to the highest bidder. And Jack...well, it's no secret that sometimes he's considered a much 'hotter' commodity on offworld sex markets than I am; it isn't only fair-haired, baby-faced archaeologists who push the libidinous buttons with these kinds of people. I don't know why Jack thinks it's always ME that needs protecting and watching over; in case he hasn't noticed, the particular brand of sexuality he exudes is just about the most exciting thing a lot of the rapacious men in these places have ever seen. Myself included, I have to admit somewhat ruefully.
I still can't believe it sometimes, that Jack and I are...together that way, now. I've done nothing worthy enough to deserve what we've had together these past six months, and anytime that insidious little thread of pride and ownership courses through me when I look at him, I have to sternly remind myself that what I have with Jack is a pure gift.
I can't take credit for all that this relationship has become between us, can't sit back gloating because I am the one he holds in his arms at night, the one closer to him than any other human alive today. Rather than feeling pride in my supposed conquest of Jack O'Neill, I feel humbled by the knowledge that HE chose ME; I feel an overwhelming sense of quiet gratitude most days for the lively, fertile exchange of ideas and emotions and trust that has built such a strong, connecting bridge between us over these past few months.
As I am dragged now from being 'inspected' and find myself shoved back into the hot, airless room with the rest of the newly 'acquired' captives, my gaze flies instantly, strongly across the crowded space to Jack's--and his name escapes me softly, without conscious volition. I see his short, sharp head shake of negation, the subtle frown of warning and denial he sends me; but back of that I also see his desperate need to run his fingers through my hair, to capture my mouth with his and brand me safe and sheltered within the shadowed penumbra of his strong presence. Again a stirring of pride rises within me as I dip my head and send him a downswept look that's every bit as possessive and needy as the measured glint in his eyes; I force it back, that hungry taste of mutual ownership, and as my senses pick up the trace of cold, covetous eyes watching my lover from the observation deck above, I feel another emotion altogether washing over me. Dammit, I just can't take him anywhere without beating off sex fiends with a stick.
My mate, Freye, tells me that enough is enough; she insists that the share of wealth we now possess is more than adequate to carry us through the remainder of our days. She does not understand what drives me to continue working long hours--what compels me to report each day to the holding rooms to sift through the newest acquisitions--when I could be at home with her, enjoying all we have built.
I cannot bring myself to be truthful to her, to look into her eyes and tell her that she is not the first love of my life these days; she is adequate for most of my needs and is beautiful enough to accompany me about the city in a manner designed to portray me in the brightest light. But she cannot fill the prime need that burns in my soul, cannot possibly ever understand the joy that burns within me each time I make another sale, each time more credits cascade into my coffers.
It's almost sexual, the rush I feel when I've made the sharpest deal I am capable of, when things come together just so and I can stand back at the end of the day and count how many idiots I've put one over on. I know how to wrangle a deal, let me say; I know just how to manipulate people into believing they simply must have whichever disposable piece of flesh I happen to be selling that day. I end my work days replete, warm with the satisfaction of knowing that I got what I wanted and my clients got what they THOUGHT they wanted and needed. In most cases it even turns out to be true; I've a keen eye for matching incoming meat with just the right slavers or bored society types. So, in the end, everyone's happy, right? Except for my mate and the sacks of skin who end up servicing some fat, flabby politico or scrubbing shit out of his owner's kids' nappies. And what is that to me? As my credits accrue, as my sense of power and might rises with each successful sale, I know that this life is filled with endless possibilities. And if Freye can't see that, there are plenty of other females who would be only too happy to share my particular vision.
It isn't only females who appeal to me; in the same vein, it isn't only the things I sell that give me a rush of satisfaction. Sometimes the fun is in the spending, in acquiring some magnificent bargain of one's own and scurrying home to unwrap it and enjoy it at one's leisure. This I intend for the silver-haired one below; this one will please me well as he shrieks and begs and writhes helplessly beneath me. And once I've used him almost all the way up, I will resell him and recoup most of my expenditure, well-satisfied with the diversion he has provided.
These people--and I use the word loosely--sicken me; they mill about on the catwalk above us, eyeing today's selection of goodies as if we were prime lobsters in a tank. I've only had this sort of thing happen once or twice in the course of all our missions, and it isn't any easier to take this time around. I'd like to pull out my P-90 and blast all these fuckers to kingdom come, if only I still HAD my sweet piece. I'm not like Daniel; I'm sick and tired of trying to UNDERSTAND why a race would enslave and use and abuse another race, how a culture's history and religion and social mores can drive them to customs so abhorrent. Hell, I know it's hypocritical of me to judge, after all the things I've seen and done, myself; but I can't help it. This is just fucking WRONG, and everything in me resists mightily the notion of being deprived of my free will, of being taken where I don't want to go and separated from Daniel.
Oh, God, Daniel; right now I just want to go over to him, wrap my arms around him, and keep all those wandering eyes above us from seeing him, from lusting after him like a pack of slavering beasts. I more than anyone know just how magnificent Daniel is, how vibrant and attractive he is both in body and spirit; I know more than any of these bastards just what it is to feel greedy for one look from him, for one touch, one kiss.
Right now I'm having a damned difficult time keeping my distance, playing it cool; those worried little glances he keeps tossing my way as we're jostled and shoved and pushed around in this small space like a bunch of dumb cattle just makes me nuts. I want to reassure him, want to put my hands on him and give him the strength of my love, the silent power of my belief in him. He's strong, and he's learned a hellava lot about looking out for himself these past few years. But he still has that core of vulnerability, of sensitivity, that just flows out of him despite his best efforts to harden himself against it, to be something meaner than he was ever meant to be. And it's that inner essence, that irrepressible light, that always draws the darkest, most twisted monsters in existence to him, like evil moths to a flame. They hate him but they want him--want to crush and destroy him, break and enslave and use him till he's all used up.
Well, I won't let it happen; I don't know how I think I can stop it, but by God I will stop it. Somehow. I'm greedy, yes, as greedy in my way as those assholes lining up with their wealth and their hungers; but where they want only to inflict misery in return for their own dark pleasures, my greed is all for having more, always more, of this ever-strengthening bond between Daniel and myself. I'm greedy to make him happy, to touch him in ways he's never known or had, to make him feel safe and free just to BE...forever.
Oh, ho, here we go; things seem to be heating up now, there's some sort of increased activity going on above us...and I don't think it bodes well for those of us stuck down here. My gaze goes briefly to Daniel, and I catch him looking back at me, his blue eyes wavering between grim stoicism and a mute longing that clenches a tight fist of need in my chest. I nod at him almost imperceptibly, my eyes darkening with a rush of helpless feeling; my fingers tingle with the need to touch him, and I see the answering flare of yearning in his eyes just before I deliberately turn away, subliminally aware of other eyes observing from above, their keen perusal noting more about us pitiful slobs here below than I'm comfortable with. We're going to get out of this, I tell myself grimly, growling a curse at one of my involuntary roomies who's just slammed up against me and is glaring a surly challenge into my face. Somehow, someway, I'm getting both Daniel and me the hell out of here.
Look at him there, strutting around like some over-inflated cock of the walk, posing and preening in front of everyone as if he owned this whole complex. Jamin, businessman extraordinaire! Rear end of a flatulent dungmule is more like it...hmmff. He flashes his wealth for all to see, as crass and as tasteless as any plebian on the street; and yet he has his own, personal retinue of sychophants, all of them panting and moaning after him like bitches in heat. I wish he would die; I wish one--just one--of these poor bastards he hauls in here and sells for such grossly inflated prices would get up the nerve to carve him a brand new smile about four inches below that disgusting smirk of one he's sending out right now.
Not that I'm a bitter or vindictive man by nature, oh no; I come by my hatred honestly, quite honestly. Jamin ruined me, finagled and weaseled and tricked my business right out from under me...and all the while he was screwing me blind, he kept that unctious, oily smile plastered on his ugly face. Well, we'll see how big he smiles when he finds out I've been screwing his mate behind his back, when he finds out that the lovely Freye isn't just waiting dociley at home and pining away for her man. She should have been mine, anyway, and WOULD be mine now, legally and not just illicitly, if that evil bastard hadn't taken what was rightfully my property. It's only fair that I'm taking part of it back now, starting with Freye.
It sickens me, watching him as he calls for only the best sweetmeats and the best wines to be sent to his bidding stall, as he sends one of his scurrying ass-kissers for his personal tailor so he can design yet another over-the-top outfit to celebrate his latest acquisitions. I look down now at my own, drab brown leggings and simple olive jerkin and clench my teeth in silent rage, remembering the soft, luxurious fabrics of the suits I once possessed but had to sell for food, for housing, once Jamin swindled me out of 80% of my trading rights here.
Just watching him prance around ignites a burning fire in the pit of my stomach, has my guts churning and roiling with the need to make him pay, to see him broken and filthy and finished. He deserves to end his days as painfully and as ignobly as these whose souls he dooms with every jingle of the credits he takes from their eager buyers' hands. No, I am not jealous; I do not envy him what he has, even though a large part of his estate should rightfully belong to me. He has come by it unlawfully, through trickery and deceit, and I am better than that; I, at least, am still a man of honor. It is retribution I seek, justice; this emotion I feel when I look at him is not envy for his looks, his wealth, his friends, his mate...it is hatred, pure and simple. And I will have my satisfaction, one way or another.
I envy Jack his strong nerves, that steely-eyed gaze of sheer will and determination that comes from some place deep inside him and always carries him through situations like this. I'm learning, slowly but surely--learning how to pretend indifference, how to school my too-transparent features into a bland, blank mask. But it's all on the surface and all too shaky most of the time; just underneath, I'm a raging bundle of nerves and trepidation, and it never takes much for that surface veneer to crack and expose the soft, vulnerable underbelly lurking below the facade. It pisses me off that Jack still has to be strong enough for the both of us on missions like this, that after a certain point my weak areas make me such a liability to him.
I'm sure he wouldn't see it that way; he truly is proud of the progress I've made insofar as becoming more of a fighter, more of a soldier. He needs that reassurance, the knowledge that I can hold my own in a physical battle or in any kind of military-type situation. But I know he's also simultaneously troubled by the idea of my becoming more like him in some respects; he fears that I'll lose who I really am, lose some essential, sensitive part of myself that makes me the man he's fallen in love with.
He sometimes tells me he envies that inborn sense of wonder and curiosity I still seem to possess, even after all the pain and suffering I've seen and endured in my life. I never tell him that that particular view of me is sweet, perhaps, but somewhat misguided. I've NEVER been the wide-eyed innocent he seems to see somewhere inside me; I'll admit that I do love learning, love embracing and exploring the small percentage of the vast stores of knowledge in the universe that my limited brain can handle. I never cease to be fascinated by everything around me, and if Jack chooses to see that as naive and somehow pure, then I don't suppose there's any real harm in it. But I sometimes envy him that edge he has, that aura of inflexible strength that he exudes with every breath; I wish I could be in a tenuous situation such as the one we find ourselves in now and be able to hold my own like he does without having to fight nonstop for my goddamned virtue.
Uh-oh, something's about to happen, there's a surge of organized movement overhead; instinctively I turn my gaze on Jack and find him staring back at me with a sudden, breathtakingly fierce look of hunger and of longing in his own dark eyes. God, I love him so much; I want to force my way through the milling, sweaty throng of men separating us and grab his head between my hands, want to pry his lips apart with my tongue and thrust my own, moist heat inside the welcoming cavern of his mouth. Mine, I want everyone to know; this man is mine, and I am his. I want nothing more, there is nothing and no one better anywhere in this universe.
I sigh inwardly to myself now as Jack gives me a barely perceptible head shake, warning me that we can't be caught looking at each other this way, observing one another with such aching intensity. A spark of rueful whimsy flits across his lean face just before he turns deliberately away from me, and I know exactly what he's thinking: Damn it, Daniel, you're spreading your bad influence to me,now!
I know he's discomfited by revealing outwardly--however subtle the revelation--the more tender side of his nature; and a small half-smile traces the edges of my mouth as I bask in the glow of knowing just how much he loves me. Fiercely I vow that we will NOT end up apart here, forever lost to earth and to each other; working together, we will get out of this. And once we're back on earth, safe and private behind the walls of our bedroom, I intend to show Jack just how influential I can be in certain areas.
Out of my way...get out of my way, may perdition take you! Yes, Pallu of Odon, you vile, smelly creature--yes, I am speaking to you! I am on an important errand for Jamin, who is in all ways your better; and if you know what's good for you, you'll heave your worthless carcass out of my path. I need room, plenty of space in which to move; I have important business to transact.
Don't look at me that way, as if I were some loathsome slug on the bottom of your boot...is it my fault you can no longer afford to dress well, to eat well? I warned you once, not so long ago, that if you crossed Jamin you would live to regret it. So let it be on your own head now, your refusal to listen, to heed my warnings. Lie cold and alone in the bed of ashes you have made.
I know on which side MY bread is buttered, where my next meal is coming from, and believe me, I dine very well. So you can just step aside, with your pale, drawn face and your bony,half-starved body blocking my rightful path. Jamin has promised me a whole case of wine for my own, as well as two roasted haunches of beef and enough pastries to feed half this city's poor; and I mean to collect my portion of his generous riches. Never again will I revisit those long-ago days as a shivering, tattered, half-starved urchin in the street; I eat well now, and I am proud of my immense girth, of my glorious robes and the lavish spreads of food and drink which I am pleased to behold set out before me nightly on my table.
What matters it to me, the fate of these stinking, unwashed masses below? What do I care how they got here, or where they are headed next, so long as my belly is full each night and I have the warm song of sweet wine thrumming through my veins? I do not see these gaunt, frightened faces before me, cannot hear their cries of rage and desperation as they are sold off from their wives and families and sent to places far, far away; as I move along on the walkway above them and go about my business, I see in my mind's eye only the lovely, succulent food I will devour later this evening in my comfortable home. I hear only the crooning whispers of my two newest concubines as they pleasure me almost into insensibility, working hard to satisfy me so that they too may have food for one more day. They know that if they fail to please me, I will throw them naked into the streets and merely replace them with bodies more willing, more submissive. My appetite for pleasures of the flesh is as healthy, as beautiful, as is my hunger for good food, for excellent wines; and so long as I serve Jamin in good faith and with all my energies, I will remain well provided for. I will watch and applaud as he makes yet another lucrative contract today; and tonight I will dine like a king.
I guess it's just about show time; looks like those bastards moving around up above us are settling into some sort of order, moving into their little, designated boxes to pick and choose and lock in their bids for the privilege of taking one or more of us fine specimens of manhood home tonight. Well, excuse me, but I ain't going. Whoever's dumb enough to put in the winning bid on yours truly had better have a hellava big tranquilizer gun or some super-strong rope, cause I am most definitely not going ANYWHERE without a fight. And I will do my level best to KILL the motherfucker that buys Daniel Jackson.
Look at that great hulk of flab plodding just overhead now; my God, we'll be lucky if his fat ass doesn't fall through the steel grid and crush us all. I pray he isn't bidding today; he probably takes his purchases home and cooks them for dinner. Mean, O'Neill; now, that's just mean. And I would never normally make fun of weight-challenged people, don't get me wrong; takes all kinds, after all. But I saw how Tubbo King treated that other guy up there, how he snarled at him and shoved him aside and made sure to step on the skinny dude's tiny little foot as he passed. I hate bullies, and I hate big, fat, self-important bullies even more. Geez, don't let that asshole bid on Daniel; if he even so much as gets near my archaeologist, much less touches him with one of those puffy, beringed sausage fingers of his, I think I'll go completely homicidal.
Thank God, Moby Dick seems to have left the building; unless he's one of those rich fuckers who leaves someone else behind to do his bidding for him, maybe Daniel and I are safe from HIS clutches, at least. But I'm not exactly thrilled with the rest of our potential buyers, either; if I had my druthers, every one of them would just suddenly vaporize in a big, greasy puff of smoke. But I don't think that's gonna happen, and I guess we don't get any lunch, either, before the big show begins. I'd really like to complain to the management about that; how do they expect us to look saleable on empty stomachs?
Worriedly I cast a surreptitious look Daniel's way, discover him absorbed in halting conversation with one of our fellow prisoners. He looks okay, still, maybe a little pale; but I know his blood sugar level has a tendency to tank out at this time of day if he doesn't get some nourishment down him. And I don't want him passing out on me right when I might need for him to be hyper-alert and ready to move.
Dammit, if we're going to do this thing, get on with it; I'm getting itchy and just plain pissed off, and I'm ready to kick some asses and get the hell out of here. Daniel looks up briefly, a distracted frown on his face, and his glance slides blankly over mine at first before drifting back and clearing into a rueful grimace of recognition. Oh, yeah, he's getting a little woozy, looking a little fragmented and confused...dammit, if only I had those chocolate bars I stashed in my pack earlier! Daniel is going to need food soon, and the prospect of watching him faint dead away and ending up being removed from my proximity is reason enough for me to curl my fists in impotent anger, cursing silently as I wait for this disgusting flesh auction to begin.
I am too tired to work today, too sick; what do these bastard curs expect from me, a man of my delicate physical sensibilities? Isn't it enough that they've run me ragged all morn, sending me scurrying here, there, and everywhere with imperious waggles of their rich, arrogant hands? They are heartless, I tell you, all of them lounging about in decadent comfort, sublimely indifferent to my woeful physical handicaps.
Well, I've had enough, I say; I need a rest, a bit of a break. I work my scrawny fingers to the bone for the likes of Jamin and that pig, Arodi, and what do I have to show for it? Nothing more than a bad back, arthritic hands, and a few measly credits or half a bread loaf at the end of every third day. I deserve better than this; I shouldn't have to work this hard to survive day to day.
I think I will just find a nice, quiet spot here in the back corridor of the prisoners' pens; no one will see me if I wedge myself in here behind the leashes and tethers they use to bind the poor, unfortunate saps once they've been sold. No one will miss me if I take just a little nap, if I close my eyes for the smallest blink of time. Let Emri cater to all those rich, spoiled bastards upstairs; let him run madly about on his stubby little legs while I get some much-needed rest.
Once this spate of weakness and exhaustion has passed, I'll just slip up the back way, take over all the errands Emri has so thoughtfully gotten organized for me, and then...well, who's to care if I end up getting the credit for it? Emri is stupid, anyway; why run yourself to death, trying to please those conceited society men and garner a few paltry crumbs from their tables, when you can take life a little easier, enjoy a bit of leisure in amidst all the madness and confusion? Is it my fault the young idiot never learns, that he merely gives me that sad, disappointed frown when he sees me emerge, refreshed and bright-eyed from my peaceful repose, while HE is all frazzled and sweaty and drained?
Yes, I will just slip quietly away now, have myself a little nap...Confound it, Jamin has spotted me! Yes, sir, yes your grace, yes, you smug, cologne-reeking, supercilious bastard, I'm coming! Let me bow and scrape and proclaim how pleased and blessed I am to do your bidding, to jump when you crook that thin, bony finger my way...
Check the fasteners on pen #8, you say, sir? Why, yes, of course, I will be most happy to do so; may it please your grace, my bad back will make it difficult to negotiate the stairs, so it might take some few moments--perhaps Emri might go check the pen, himself? He is, after all, so much younger and quicker than I...No, no, sir, I would never presume to question your orders, to flaunt your wishes! I will attend to the matter straightaway, I will make sure pen #8 is well secured. We can't have all that fresh meat making a break for it, now, can we? Never mind that I myself will see no benefit from the sale of the poor rotters; what little token you will presume to toss my way won't even be a drop in the proverbial bucket of all your filthy wealth. But I will go; yes, indeed, I will see to pen #8...just as soon as I go down the corridor and relieve myself, then perhaps take the SMALLEST rest break...
I guess this is it; I guess the infamous auction is beginning. I'm not sure why they're keeping us all penned in together, why they haven't separated us out and put us on individual display for closer perusal by prospective buyers. Not that I'm complaining, mind you; the longer Jack and I can stay close together in one place, the better our chances of getting out of here together.
Maybe I spoke too soon; suddenly there is a brief stirring on the other side of the chest-high wall separating this holding room from several others just like it, and I watch over the top of the wall as four apprehensive men are herded out of the cell adjoining this one. Their handlers are armed with some sort of leather collars with long tethers attached, and there are ropes used to bind the mens' hands behind their backs. For any who might attempt to struggle or escape, two more heavily muscled handlers stand ready with some sort of long, electrified rods in hand, ready to deliver a very painful and debilitating shock to any poor sap unlucky enough to be touched by the rods.
"Does every single, frigging slave planet carry a patent on those?" I hear Jack murmur against my ear, and I turn in startled surprise to find him standing right behind me. "You're slipping, Daniel," Jack continues chidingly, sliding one surreptitious hand down to briefly squeeze my own. I know he's disappointed that I wasn't even aware of him coming up behind me, and I feel myself flush slightly with resigned chagrin.
"Sorry," I murmur in reply, already missing the feel of his warm, strong fingers gliding across my palm. "I let myself get distracted...Jack, I'm thinking our only chance is to make sure we leave here together, like that group; if they put everyone in fours, maybe we could, well..." I don't like the idea that's come into my head now, but Jack nods in complete understanding.
"Maybe we can somehow use the other two guys for cover, use them to help US escape," he murmurs against my neck. I don't think any of the prospective buyers in the private boxes above us will notice our rather intimate exchange; most of their attention has been diverted to the first four subjects up for bid, and Jack and I are being forced into a tight ball of sweaty humanity on every side as it is, as our fellow prisoners crowd the wall around us in an attempt to see what's happening. It gives us the perfect cover to press our bodies lightly together, Jack's chest solid against my back, his pelvis warm and firm against my ass; the contact is all too brief, our hands brushing once more in the confused tangle of limbs surging and moving around us. Then some of the handlers are barking heated orders at us, slamming their electric rods against the wall of the cell and sending the whole mass of us reeling back as ugly, smarting sparks arc from the wall and send a sizzle of restless electrical energy flying into those pressed closest to the wall.
"Be ready," Jack whispers once, fiercely, into my ear as we battle the agitated crush of dirty, disheveled men struggling back from the wall. I can only nod, glancing down to see our hands pulled apart by the maddened flurry of other hands, other arms, all of them drawing us forcefully away from each other.
I suddenly feel tired, so tired; a weakness born of stress and no food in over twelve hours has me reeling back against a wiry, panicked man who snarls something ugly in my face and shoves me up against another nameless stranger. My limbs become leaden things, slothful and uncooperative, as this man also gives me an angry shove; as I stumble clumsily and fall to my knees, I hear Jack's voice calling my name in an agitated growl. Dazedly my eyes follow the multitude of feet milling all around me, some of them shod in crude boots or mocassins, most of them bare; and as several more of our fellow captives do their best to trample me under, my gaze fastens on one particular pair of large, familiarly booted feet stomping through the crush in my direction.
Jack, I think dimly, surprised to be down here, so close to the ground. Jack. And then his hands are fastening on my arms, pulling me somewhat frantically to a shaky standing position, and all I can do when his worried brown eyes meet mine is shake my head slowly, my voice coming out a slur of regret:
"Maybe I'm not...so ready," I murmur apologetically; and then everything goes dark.
I am the head overseer of this auction house, and as such I take my job seriously; it is a matter of pride with me that my clients are able to come to this facility and procure fresh merchandise with maximum ease and minimal fuss. Thus it is that I find myself becoming almost enraged when a problem with cell lock #8 arises and that worthless git, Ard, is nowhere to be seen.
"I ordered your man to check that pen over an ela ago," Jamin puffs irately from his plush seat in his deluxe bidding box. "I have two rather rare specimens on hold in that particular lot, and I intend that both should remain in excellent condition for the bidding." Though he does not say so, I know just what sort of shenanigans Jamin is up to with the two offerings in question; I have seen him do it many times, sell superb specimens to others for exhorbitant prices and then, under the table, have those same sacks of skin given to him as a 'gift' of appreciation by the very ones who bought them. It is a sneaky way for Jamin to help his cronies play fast and dirty with our tax laws, enabling them to take high deductions for the merchandise while he ultimately reaps the reward of using and/or abusing his new 'gifts' as he sees fit before reselling them on the black market and keeping all the profit for himself. Of course, he makes sure that I receive my small piece of the action, as is only right and proper; but if ever the bastard gets himself caught, I have taken my own precautions to keep my record clean.
And now he stands before me, posturing and blustering about my piss-poor workers and the lamentable condition of this facility; his dark eyes glare disdainful reproach and more than a hint of malicious threat, and I think drily to myself that the latest piece of meat to have caught his fancy must be something hot, indeed. It is well known how Jamin loves to play his little sex games with the merchandise he receives as 'gifts,' how he likes to really, really hurt the poor, miserable sacks of shit before he sells them off, broken and not much good for anything but field labor or factory line work afterwards. Sometimes he keeps them for quite a long time, the ones that REALLY get him hot; and if the looks he was giving that silver-haired buck in cell #8 earlier are anything to go by, that doomed soul will wish he'd died before ever knowing the name of Jamin.
"All will be well, you will see," I soothe Jamin now, forcing an acceptable tone of compliance and respect into my voice. Jamin's shrewd eyes tell me that he isn't buying my obsequious facade for one amal, but he merely nods once, coldly, and turns away, switching his displeasure to one of our lower men, Emri. As Emri quails beneath Jamin's rage, I make my way down the corridors of animated, well-dressed buyers and find my own anger building and building to a solid head.
I will kill that ass, Ard, when I find him; he has slept away his last, useless day on this planet. If even one sales item is lost or escapes through that malfunctioning door, I will not only kill him--I will chop off his genitals and stuff them in his mouth, set his worthless carcass alight, and THEN...then I will feed his charred remains to my dogs. And I will fix it so that Jamin repays me for the loss of my worker. It's the least that son of a bitch can do, after all the palms I have helped him grease, all the shady deals I've assisted him with over these many craens. I may never be in the public eye as he has been, may never gain the powerful friends he has bought and built up for himself; but I have my own power, my own rage, carefully nurtured and fertilized by all the shit I've taken from him and his ilk in the course of building my own tidy nest egg.
Dammit, dammit! I will never hear the end of this, I should have KNOWN something like this would happen today...Hurry, hurry, you imbecilic morons, you brainless lackeys from the depths of perdition! The gate has been forced, already a quantity of the merchandise has pushed and shoved and fought free of the handlers.
"ARD!! You are dead, DEAD! Do you hear, do you understand that?!" I bellow, my voice loud enough to cut through the crazed confusion and chaos taking place in the auction pens. Grimly I keep my eyes turned away from the spectacle--no less attractive than the ugliness going on down here--of all the rich, bored buyers hanging out of their boxes upstairs and watching the pandemonium below them with smug amusement. I know of one buyer who will NOT be so amused, I correct myself angrily as I see that the silver-haired object of Jamin's affections is one of those who is determinedly fighting his way past the cordon of handlers herding and funneling the escapees back toward the pens.
"Move it! Move it, get those sacks of meat back where they belong!" I scream hoarsely; and as a skinny little blur suddenly zips past me from the corner of my eye, I turn and snare a certain, terrified idiot by the ignominious name of Ard before he can escape along with those whom his carelessness allowed to escape. As he writhes and shrieks pitiably in my grasp, I motion for one of the handlers to turn his pain stick over to me, smiling with real pleasure as I envision what I am going to do to this little runt.
"I want the merchandise back in that pen and that lock fixed before I return," I warn the handlers nearest me. "And for every one of those sacks of skin that escapes, one of YOU will face the same fate our friend Ard here is about to meet."
Gravely the handlers nod, turning in sync to run after their fellows and round up the stragglers still fighting so hopelessly for their freedom; my eyes cold with the depths of my anger, I turn my attention back to the task at hand. And as that task begins to screech and moan and cry for mercy beneath my hands, I merely tighten my grip around Ard's throat and drag him into the back, where I will have room to work.
If ever I believed in God, today's the day. No sooner has Daniel gone all limp and woozy on me than there's a sudden, loud commotion over by the gated door to our cell. As I cradle Daniel's barely-standing figure against my side, I'm amazed to see the door buckle and give under the frantic, concerted efforts of a mob of our fellow prisoners pushing against it.
"Woo hoo, Daniel, time to blow this joint!" I hiss fiercely into his ear; dammit, of all the times for his blood sugar to bottom out...but there's no help for it, a chance like this won't come our way again.
"C'mon, buddy, we're getting the hell out of here," I whisper against Daniel's hair, and then I lift him over my shoulder and barrel my way past all the other crazed, pitiful schmucks trying to clear out of this cesspool along with us.
At first I let their sheer mass and numbers work for me, use their pushing, shoving bodies as a protective barrier against the big goons waiting just up ahead with their lovely cattle prods of death. But these idiots are too panicked, too hysterical and disorganized to work together intelligently to help as many people as possible to slip away. Slowed down by Daniel's weight, I find myself running up against a really nasty-looking handler, a huge gorilla of a guy with a smashed-flat nose and eyes too close together and one big, raging hemorrhoid up his ass, if the expression on his face is anything to go by.
"Don't go anywhere, okay?" I grunt to Daniel as I let him slide quickly but carefully off my shoulder and down to the ground. Rolling his limp body off to one side, I turn to face Magilla Gorilla and recoil in helpless pain as he manages to catch me with the very tip of his glow stick.
"Arrggh--! Son of a fucking BITCH!" I bellow, using the pain--the RAGE I feel at this godawful electric fire sizzling through my nerve endings--to boost my own power, my own will to retaliate and to do as much damage as I possibly can. I freaking HATE to be jolted with the juice like that; and as the behemoth with the pain stick comes at me again, I decide that a whole lotta payback is in order. But the damned rod has left my whole right arm numb, and I can only grapple clumsily with Mr. Ugly in an uneven battle for his weapon.
"Jack..." Dimly I hear Daniel's voice at my feet, his tone thick and understandably dazed; cursing his timing yet again, I back up the barest bit and lunge with all my strength at Goliath, feinting to the side at the last second and causing him to overbalance in his own forward charge. With a monumental grunt we both go splat, the electric rod in his hand discharging a searing arc of energy right next to my head and singeing several strands of my hair.
"Hey, I NEEDED that hair!" I growl angrily; and as Daniel gives a startled little yeep! of pain under the pounding rush of a manic prisoner trying to leap frog over his prone body, I find myself engaged in a grim and decidedly losing battle with the mighty wielder of the pain stick.
"Dammit, Daniel, GET UP!" I yell hoarsely under the encroaching fist that is trying to encircle my windpipe. "Get the hell out of here, go while you still can!"
"Jack?" Daniel's face looms lopsidedly over the right shoulder of the goon who's beginning to choke the life out of me, and my lover's glazed, befuddled blue eyes gape uncomprehendingly at the interesting shade of puce I'm sure my face is turning.
Dammit, Daniel, snap out of it! I want to scream at him; the look of innocent confusion still plastered on Daniel's pale face suddenly sends a surge of inchoate rage through my whole body, and I find myself clawing one hand out to my side, reaching slowly, so slowly, for the pain stick my would-be killer is holding onto only loosely now. In his own bemused way Daniel suddenly becomes a help rather than a hindrance; as he puts one hand on the gorilla's shoulder and says quite reasonably: "That's the love of my life you're choking, there; I'm afraid I'll have to ask you to stop," I am able to take advantage of the split-second of diversion Daniel's touch has inspired and wrench the electric rod free of its owner's grasp.
Praying I can move fast enough, I yank the rod straight across my chest, insinuating it between the gorilla's beefy torso and my own and tilting the business end frantically in his direction. Even as he begins to release his choke hold on my throat and grapple for the rod, I energize it and scream in pain as it shoots out some really intense juice into the bulk resting atop me. Even the peripheral disharge of energy is enough to make all my fillings smoke, and as the major portion of voltage shoots direct into Mr. Ugly's heart, he stiffens and jerks and arches helplessly above me, his tongue distended and protruding in a really disgusting way from between his clenching jaws. Just before he bites that sucker completely off right on top of me, I manage to wiggle-roll out from under him and lie limp on my side, shaking convulsively in the aftermath of the electric discharge and trying to locate Daniel with eyes that refuse to focus.
"Jack! Jack! They're rounding everybody up again, we can't do this," I hear my lover hiss above me, and I turn my gaze on the pale blob that represents his face.
"No..." I grit out with extreme effort, curled fingers reaching to claw ineffectually at his shirt. "Got...to go...get out, out..."
"I'm sorry, Jack; it's all my fault," Daniel murmurs, and despite my attempts to protest, to push him back and make him at least TRY to get away, he takes hold of my wrists and pulls me up against him instead, his arms going around me and cradling me next to his chest.
"Daniel..." I murmur hopelessly, reaching one shaky hand to stroke it along the strong, loyal line of his jaw. "Oh, Daniel..."
And then deliverance comes from an unlikely corner, falling on us both pretty much from above. Suddenly a figure appears next to Daniel, a middle-aged man dressed in subdued shades of olive and brown. His face is pinched with a combination of anxiety and some strange, hard joy, and he reaches down and plucks imperiously at Daniel's sleeve.
"Im'sa! Im'sa!" he orders harshly, intensely, and from his gestures and the tone of his voice, I deduce rather drunkenly that Im'sa means 'MOVE-YOUR-DAMNED-ASSES-FOR-GOD'S-SAKE!' Daniel and I share one brief, suspicious look, but it seems that Mr. Friendly here is the only game left in town; so I find myself grappling my way to my feet, with Daniel on one side and the helpful stranger on the other. I have a feeling he isn't just helping us out of the goodness of his heart; seems I saw this guy earlier, almost getting smushed one minute by that hugely fat goon I'd noticed up on the walkway before then becoming embroiled in some sort of verbal sparring match with that pervert that kept staring at me...
"Well, hey...anybody who hates those two turds as much as you seem to is definitely okay in my book," I mutter to him as he leads us on a dizzying, zigzag course between ranks of pissed-off handlers still beating, zapping, and herding stray escapees back toward the pens. I'm still not sure how we made it, but finally our unlikely savior is leading us out of some sort of back door into a narrow, dirty alleyway just behind the auction house. Feverishly our rescuer points and jabbers, jabbers and points, making all sorts of crazy gestures that only gradually begin to sink into my brain and make some sort of sense.
Oh...he's telling us how to get out of the city, how to twist and turn and which way to head to get ourselves outside the boundaries of this stinking place. Both Daniel and I try to confirm his pantomimed directions by aping them back at him, and after a moment he nods impatiently and gives the both of us an urgent push in the direction of the open end of the alley.
"Thanks," I mutter, and as I reach for Daniel's arm to pull him bodily along with me, he briefly yanks free of my hold and turns back to the slender form just about to slip back into the building.
"Wait! Please, can you tell us your name?" Daniel calls softly, and I give him a stare of complete disbelief.
"Daniel, who the hell cares?!" I cry in exasperation. "Let's just get the fuck out of here!"
"I care, Jack," Daniel retorts stubbornly, and with me yanking ineffectually on his arm, he shrugs my hand away and points to his own chest.
"Daniel," he calls to the figure gaping at him inside the open doorway to the auction house. "I'm Daniel; can you tell me your name, just so I can remember it for my journal? So I'll know who it was who saved us?"
"There isn't going to BE any saving if you don't move your ass!" I hiss furiously into Daniel's face; but once more he points to his chest and intones his name, his gaze fixed on the stranger in the door. That worthy rolls his eyes at me as if to say, 'Do you BELIEVE this idiot?!" and all I can do is shrug helpless agreement; giving up, the stranger wrinkles his nose and says one word, sullenly:
"Pallu...Pallu. Thank you, Pallu!" Daniel calls, his expressive face lighting with sudden joy; and as Pallu stands frozen, seemingly stunned by the brilliance of Daniel's smile, I am finally able to hustle my totally impossible team mate off down the alley and into the massed, chaotic bustle of the main thoroughfare beyond.
"I am SO gonna kick your ass when we get back to the gate!" I growl at Daniel as we move our bodies as quickly as we are able through the congested streets; and as Daniel merely gives me a half-meek, half-petulant grimace in return, I know that what I REALLY want to do is get him home, drag him into the shower, and wash away the stink of this ugly frigging planet and everything that's happened to us here.
"I love you, Jack." I hear his voice just behind my left shoulder now, and as my hand tightens around his, fingers squeezing and closing securely over his own, I send him my silent but eloquent response: I love you, too, Daniel." And I know we're gonna be okay, that we'll be walking through that gate to home one more time.