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to her knees. Eyes closed, she smoothed her palms over the silky fabric. A once-upon-a-time feeling, and she had been the princess. “Hurry the hell up, Savage.” Twisting her fingers in the loose skirt, Claire glanced at the sergeant, who raised her eyebrows. Challenging. When Claire broke the staring match, the sergeant tossed the high heels she’d been holding onto the ground, the black leather a stark contrast to the whitewashed concrete all around them. Claire shoved her feet into the shoes, ignored the sharp pinch at the tip, ankles wobbling. The sergeant’s gaze dropped to the clipboard in her dry hand, stubby pencil moving across the paper with a scratch. I know this story a little, so I know this is in the future, right? I’m not sure a clipboard feels right or grounds me in the time setting. Maybe some kind of tech device? “Coat?” Claire started to shrug, but the hint of a memory peeked around the permanent haze the wardens kept her in. A red sleeve, with three flat buttons. “Yes. A red one.” The warden narrowed her eyes back at the clipboard, flipping through the pages. Maybe she could scroll the data? “Ain’t a coat in the records,” she said, and clicked the pen shut maybe some other more modern movement, like snapped the ‘device’ shut or something? with finality. Claire felt a surge in her head, a rush that broke against the haze and rained numb tingles down her face and into her arms. As feeling crept into her fingers, she pressed her thumbnail into her palm. The barest spike of pain. “No. I had one.” Claire kept her gaze fixed on her hand, concentrating on the pain. The sergeant reached across the gap and snatched Claire’s hand, fingers crushing it flat. “Listen to me, you little psi bitch. This is just a field trip. Soon enough you’ll be back. With me.” She squeezed tighter with each word, until Claire thought she felt the tendons in her
hand popping. An ugly red stain blotched the loose skin on the sergeant’s neck, crept under the bristle-brush cut. “And if they ask you how you’re being treated, you remember what to say?” she snarled, curling her thin upper lip. It distorted the scar there, a jagged white line that traveled across her jowl to her torn-away ear. Claire looked down at her, at the wide cheeks and washed-out eyes that had become more familiar than her own reflection. The pain in her hand was blossoming, fighting against the numbness. “Yes.” The corners of the sergeant’s eyes twitched with the statement, and then she released Claire’s hand, only to slap her on the ass. “Don’t forget me.” Her gaze slid down Claire’s body. Lips parted. She reached out, and Claire saw dark grime caked beneath each crescent fingernail. A buzz blasted through the room, and the door behind the desk burst inward. The sergeant changed her trajectory at the last second, and the grope turned into a slap. Claire fell against the desk, ear ringing. A curtain of hair slid over her face. “Sergeant Horn! What the hell is taking so long in here?” The warden took one step into the room. Through her hair, Claire watched his hand flutter to the pistol strapped at his waist. “Just some discrepancies with the prisoner’s personal effects,” Sergeant Horn said. “She’s ready now.” She flinched as his single eye swept over her. Maybe put her name instead of the ‘she’, so the reader is clear which ‘she’ is flinching. “Where’s her damn coat?” he growled. The sergeant’s gaze flicked over to Claire, who brushed her hair back over her shoulder and straightened. The ringing in her ear continued. “She ain’t got one. Sir.” He jerked the clipboard out of Horn’s hands and flipped through the pages, then threw it back at the older woman. “Get her a damn coat, and then get the hell out here.” He disappeared back behind the door. Horn glared at Claire, and for once Claire was grateful for the warden’s presence.
In the anteroom, the warden was tapping a syringe against his thigh. He leaned against the room’s only furnishing, a metal examination table. Claire stared at the withered skin around his empty eye socket as Warden Horn shoved her toward the table. It disgusted her, but she liked to imagine that it was the exacted revenge of some other brutalized prisoner. Imagine what it felt like, holding him still with her psi bitch power while her thumbnails pushed through sclera. His screams. AWESOME paragraph! “Please have a seat, Ms. Savage.” Cold metal felt sharp against her thighs. The warden crossed to the opposite end of the tiny room and opened the door. Two figures, covered from head to toe in black combat armor, slipped inside. Her pulse jumped as they raised the barrels of twin automatic rifles, moving around to flank her. “This will only take a moment,” the warden said. He picked up a vial of yellow liquid from the table beside her. Clenching the needle cap in his teeth, he plunged the needle into the vial’s rubber stopper and pulled back on the plunger. Liquid poured into the syringe, spilling past the black tick marks. A tiny voice from the perpetually fogged part of her brain whispered four mils. The warden pocketed the vial, then turned his gaze on Claire. In the cave of his ruined socket, she could see eyelashes lying flat against the wrinkled skin. Ew! And, awesome! “This is how events will proceed, Ms. Savage: you will allow the guards to shackle your hands behind your back. I will inject you with the treatment, which will take two minutes to clear your system of the methylamphedrine. During this time, the guards,” he nodded at the automatic rifles, “will escort you off the premises and into the custody of the Confederation officials who have come for you. If you cause any disturbance, you will be shot on sight. Are we clear?” She focused on the good eye, its iris the color of old blood. Nice! “Yes, Warden Crowley.” The eye made tiny, jerking movements as he studied her, and then he blinked away and nodded at the guards. Ew! “Shackle her.” One guard clasped her wrists together while the other whipped three nylon zip-ties around them, pulling each so tight that her hands immediately started tingling. She swallowed and let her eyes go out of focus on a small red dot on the floor.
Warden Crowley’s fingertips brushed against the exposed skin on her arm. “Injecting.” The needle slipped into her skin with a quick pinch, and then he pressed in the plunger. For one brief second their eyes met, and she felt nothing. And then liquid fire ripped through her arm, rushing across her shoulder to devour her spine. A scream beat at her throat, pounding at her tongue, her lips, but she ground her teeth down harder, even when she tasted blood. A wave of dizziness swept through her, and this she couldn’t resist. As Crowley withdrew the needle, she slumped sideways. She hoped they would let her fall. Wind blasted across her bare legs, snapping her out of the pain-induced haze. One of the guards was still holding her up, gloved hands digging into the tender arm. The other held a puffy jacket. “You have to put this on.” His voice sounded flat, mechanical. She blinked at him. Her synapses felt frozen, firing through sludge. “What about the restraints?” the guard beside her said. “Should we take them off?” “Crowley said—” “I know what he said. But look at her—she’s out of it.” One of the blank masks appeared in her narrow field of vision. She kept her eyes squinted. “Shit. I don’t care. If she tries something, just shoot her.” The guard with the jacket moved behind her and roughly picked up her hands. She felt a sharp snap of pressure, and then the restraints clattered to the ground. “Hey.” He tapped her arm. “Hey!” She lifted her head. The ringing in her ear had intensified. He held out the jacket. “Put it on. Hurry up.” The stilettos sounded like gunfire on the concrete walkway. Claire kept her gaze focused ahead, hands jammed into the jacket pockets. The burning sensation from the injection swept through her body. Her fingers tingled, legs ached, but most of all her head felt like it was going to explode from unreleased pressure. Right foot, left foot. Repeat.
They passed through an automated gate, barely distinguishable from the meter-thick wall that ringed the compound. Atop the wall, ice clung to the razor wire, glinting in the lateafternoon sun. Nice description, and we know it’s cold, which helps our setting. Outside the prison’s sterile environment, brittle brown grass stretched on a flat plane, as far as she could see in any direction. No place to hide. The guards directed her around the right side of the fence, then both stopped short. “That doesn’t look Confederation.” The guard to her right, the one who had cut her restraints, slid his hand down the butt of his rifle. “It’s the only one here.” An oblong ship hunkered to the ground. Matte gray paint covered the hull save the nose, which was deep red. Two pairs of nacelles weighed down the back end of the otherwise sleek design. The first guard released his gun and took a step forward. “I don’t give a shit. I’m freezing my nuts off.” His left leg exploded. Claire jerked backward as hot bits of meat and blood sprayed across her, littering the ground like crimson confetti. As he pitched forward, a shrill scream overloaded the helmet’s speaker. The other guard whipped up his rifle and dove to the ground, taking cover behind his writhing partner. Bullets tore across the expanse, gouging into the brown earth. Claire’s ear popped, and awareness surged through her, sweeping away the dregs of haze and pain. It was like she’d been submerged in water and had finally broken the surface. She could hear—everything. Her heart, pounding with the release. The fallen guard’s moans as his blood gushed out of his leg’s ruined stump. Where before her vision had seemed dim and clouded, she could now see the individual grains of dirt beneath their feet, the tiny webbing of cracks on the guards’ helmets. She raised her right hand, Horn’s marks still angry red. Beneath the white skin, thin lines undulated, swarming together to form a biotic gauntlet like black lace. She pointed at the guard, who was still shooting blindly at the empty landscape. Power surged through her hand, and he shot into the air, arms and legs akimbo. The rifle dangled, and even as she advanced on him, he started to raise the muzzle.
She slashed her left hand and the rifle tore out of the guard’s grasp, skittering across the ground a dozen feet. He moaned, a high-pitched female sound, and the pungent smell of urine assaulted her sharpened senses. Clenching her right fist, which now glowed with a pulsing black light, she flipped him over and pulled him in close. The helmet mirrored her reflection. She held her hand up before his visor and wiggled her fingers. “Thanks for taking off my restraints. I appreciate it.” The punch rocketed him across the expanse, and he hit the side of the ship with a metallic thud. You might want to change when she flipped him over, to also lifting him off the ground… because I read it as he was on the ground, so it feels weird that she could punch him while he’s laying on the ground and make him fly, ya know what I mean?She watched him slide to the ground bonelessly, then looked down at her hand. Barely visible around the black lines and the glow—blood, seeping out of her pores. Claire swallowed, and a shiver raced down her spine. “Please…” Fingers grabbed her ankle. The guard who had fallen, somehow still alive. She knelt beside him and laid her hand on his shoulder, then glanced up at the ship. A fissure had appeared across the belly, a thick line rapidly spreading into a ramp that slid across the ground. “Please.” A pair of square-toed boots appeared on the ramp, and then legs clad in gray pinstripe. And then from the nose of the ship, a tall silhouette with the lean shape of a rifle slung across broad shoulders. She caressed the guard’s shoulder. In the hell that had been the last three hundred seventy-two days of her life, he had been the only person to show her kindness. For that, she would repay him. Already walking before his chest went still, she tracked blood across the grass. I think this sentence needs some clarifying. Behind her, inside the compound’s walls, the first siren’s wail pierced the suddenly-still air. The two men drew together, the one in pinstripe reaching out his hand. She didn’t slow, just shoved between them and trudged up the ramp. At the threshold to the ship, she paused, then bent down, pulled one shoe off, then the other, and dropped them over the edge.
I really liked this, Summer. I love your pacing and description, and most of all I love your verb choices.
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