Chapter 9
Ghosts of the Past
Earth Union Detention Barracks, Pluto, Plutonian Sphere
Date: Thu 23 Apr 123
Time: UST 1217

Matt numbly shuffled through the chow line. Automated spigots squirted four varieties of unidentifiable bioengineered glop into the partitions of the tray. It looked terrible and tasted worse, but it was enough to keep you alive. Not that there was much point in being alive in a place like this, but if Matt gave up on eating, they would only force-feed him. All he could do was drag himself from one day to the next. Perhaps this was his penance.
You did not pick where you sat. Everyone sat down in order, all with the sort of military precision Matt had not seen since the Academy. You only had about five minutes to eat, but the 'food' was nothing to savor and there was no one Matt had any interest in socializing with. Of course, even if he did want to pass the time with some dinner conversation, you were not allowed to talk, so that part at least was a moot point.
That did not stop some people, though.
"Well, well, well, if it isn't the accountant?" a voice said.
Matt would not have looked up if the voice did not sound vaguely familiar. It was Grig, one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Without his trademark slicked-back hair, his head appeared overlarge, precariously balanced on his thin neck. He still wore his BCGs, but as with training, BCGs were general issue in the Icebox. There were three others sitting around him, one Matt remembered as Jassa's fat companion--who was now a good twenty or thirty kilos lighter. The other two Matt had never seen before but something told him they were other members of the Seven Deadlies.
"That little stunt you pulled at Yufang was a lucky break," Grig continued. "We could've gotten much better acquainted if you stuck around. I wonder how long you would've held out."
Matt recalled the horrific torture Commander Joachim suffered at their hands. He also became keenly aware of the two rather large prisoners sitting on either side of him. A deliberate move?
"We'll be seeing you around, I'm sure," Grig said. "I just thought I'd let you know that Jassa's looking forward to catching up with her dear Aunt Lydia."
"ON YOUR FEET!" a guard shouted.
Though it had only been a few days, Matt was already well-conditioned to spring up on command, tray in hand, and follow the instructions as they were marched out of the mess hall. The process was largely automatic, leaving him to dwell on Grig's threat and worry about what would happen to Lydia.

* * *

Date: Thu 23 Apr 123
Time: UST 2346

Though she was still disoriented, the fog in Lydia's head was starting to clear. Not because they were drugging her any less but because they'd been giving her so much for so long that she was building up a resistance to it. She didn't want to let on that the drugs were losing their effect or they'd just up her dosage or switch to something else. Not that her thoughts were very pleasant company, but things were worse in their absence.
She was in some sort of infirmary. She was used to finding herself in a single, but this was part of a larger bay. The curtains were pulled back, so she could count some twenty beds. There was always an armed guard posted near the door. Seemed like everyone there was a psych case.
They had her strapped down good and tight. Wrists, ankles, chest, waist, thighs and head. It was the smart restraints too. They'd tighten if you struggled and then loosen up once you settled down. Trying to get out would only make things worse for you.
They shaved her head too. Must not've liked what they saw because they'd bandaged over most of the right side of her face.
The EMS unit beeped twice before activating. This machine in particular would alternate between the left and right, slowly working its way up the body. It didn't really hurt, but Lydia still didn't like it, even if it was the only thing staving off muscle atrophy. The electrodes for the EMS were among the many wires and tubes coming off her. It was too familiar a sight for her taste.
She wanted out, but she didn't know how she was going to pull it off. They never took off all the restraints, not even to bathe her. All she could do was continue to play vegetable or else they might blitz her brain into mush.
There was a knock on the door. Any authorized personnel would just swipe in. Also, there was a distinct pattern to the beats. It was a signal.
The guard opened the door and three orange-suited female prisoners walked in.
"You've got five minutes," the guard said. "Make it quick."
"Yeah, yeah," the smaller of the three prisoners said.
"You people better keep your end of the deal."
"We ain't never let ya down, have we?"
The guard nodded in Lydia's direction.
"Fourth bed on the right on the back wall."
There was something about the prisoner's voice that was familiar. Where had Lydia heard it before?
The three prisoners slowly walked toward her bed. Lydia had to continue to play the part, staring blankly up at the ceiling while still watching the prisoners with her peripheral vision. Good thing they were coming from her left.
When the prisoners stopped at the foot of her bed, the smaller one said, "Hello there, Autie. Ya look like shit."
Lydia remembered. The spider web tattoo on her neck was a dead giveaway. It was Jassa of the Seven Deadlies. Lydia had some choice words for her, but she had to keep quiet. Whatever happened, she couldn't afford to show any reaction.
"Funny how info leaks 'round here," Jassa said. "Officially, ya'll ain't here, but I guess none a' us are."
Jassa walked up alongside the bed, reaching behind her collar and pulling out a tiny plastic shiv.
"I still owe ya for Yufang. Ya broke my damn nose an' cracked my skull in three places. Then ya go an' bust up my Wasp. Yeah, I heard it was you. Got ya ta thank for puttin' me in here. How d'ya think I should pay ya back?"
Jassa leaned in close, holding the shiv up to Lydia's face.
"Maybe I oughta poke out your other eye, carve up this side a' your face nice an' pretty. How'd ya like that, bitch?"
Lydia kept her breathing shallow and didn't move a muscle. Was the guard going to just stand by and let Jassa do whatever she wanted? How far was she actually willing to go?
Looking a little disappointed, Jassa grumbled, "Ya prolly ain't hearin' a word I'm sayin'. How's I s'pposed ta really enjoy this if ya ain't even on the same fuckin' planet?"
Jassa slowly traced along the edge of Lydia's cheekbone with the edge of her shiv as a cruel grin crossed her lips.
"Maybe this'll wake ya up, Sleepin' Beauty."
For better or for worse, Lydia decided she couldn't keep up the ruse any longer. Jassa let her hand get too close to Lydia's mouth and even the head restraint wouldn't be enough stop her. She managed to grab two of Jassa's fingers with her teeth and bit down. Hard. Hard as she could.
Jassa screamed bloody murder but just flailed her free hand around in a panic, not having the presence of mind to try to fight Lydia to get loose. Her two fellow prisoners weren't much help either. Fueled by a surge of adrenaline and a lot of pent-up anger, Lydia managed to messily bite through both fingers. The still screaming Jassa staggered backwards into the prisoner behind her, holding up her mangled hand in horror.
Lydia spit out Jassa's fingers just as her screaming started to die down. Her whole body was shaking as she continued to stare at her hand and then it happened. Her panic gave way to pure unbridled rage.
Jassa sprang at Lydia, but no sooner had she taken hold of the collar of Lydia's hospital gown than the guard pulled her away.
"That's enough!" the guard barked.
Jassa elbowed the guard in the face and got a taste of his stun gun for it. Before the other two prisoners could make a move, the guard ducked back and drew his pistol.
"Don't even fucking think about it," he growled, quickly alternating his target between the two of them. Once the two prisoners had their hands up, he motioned to Jassa and told them, "Get her out of here. Take her to the ER."
"What about 'er fingers?" one of the prisoners asked.
"An orderly'll come get 'em later. Now move it!"
"Alright, alright."
The two prisoners picked up Jassa, who had lost pretty much all the fight in her by this point, and carried her to the door. With his pistol still trained on them, the guard went to swipe his card to let them out. Once, the door was closed and locked, the guard holstered his pistol and held his nose for a moment.
"Aw, goddammit... Bitch better not've broken it..."
He went over to the desk near the door and pulled out a tissue from the dispenser, tearing off a couple strips to pack in his nostril and using the rest of it to wipe his face. He looked at the tissue for a moment and grumbled some curses before wadding it up and sticking it in the biohaz bin. He then turned around and started to walk over to Lydia's bed, holding his nose as he went.
After taking a moment to look at her, he said, "I know you're a head case, but you really are one crazy bitch, you know that?"
Lydia could still taste Jassa's blood. She tried spitting out the corner of her mouth, but it just smeared down her cheek. Lovely. At very least, she might not have to worry about any more visitors for a while.