Carpathia III: Episode 41 - Solitude
Gone was Jaze's comfortable, old room, which he acquired upon ascending to Mirage's provisional second in command. Now, Jaze was relegated to a miniscule room that resembled little more than a jail cell. Crammed into this tiny space was a slab of a bed which barely contained his height, a sink, and a toilet. His door was locked from the outside, effectively making his room a prison and there was no doubt that this was meant to be solitary confinement.
Outside of his door, Jaze heard the jingling of keys and the clank as the lock to his door was turned. The routine was the same, twice a day, and he knew to expect Pestilence at the door.
Pestilence: Get up. It's meal time.
Jaze stood immediately, ready to follow Pestilence out of the door. The one time he hesitated, Pestilence slammed the door in his face and Jaze did not get any food until the next meal. Jaze wasn't sure what happened after he was moved to his new cell, but he was positive that Mirage was no longer in charge of the nekohumans. Pestilence now had that position and he was clearly enjoying it.
Jaze and Pestilence walked side by side down the corridor to the cafeteria as Pestilence kept a tight grip on Jaze's arm. Each of the nekohumans they passed averted their eyes as Jaze approached, saying nary a word to him. Even Jump wouldn't look him in the face. This day, however, was the first time Jaze saw Mirage since he was moved to his cell. Mirage looked away, though Jaze tried, regardless, to get his attention.
Right away, Jaze felt Pestilence's hand hit him on the back of the head as Mirage said nothing and shuffled more quickly past him.
Pestilence: No talking!
Jaze said nothing for the remainder of his short walk to the cafeteria. There, everyone else had already left. One table had a tray on it and that's where Jaze sat. In the past, the food was barely tolerable, but now, it was an unrecognizable mush. Jaze ate quickly, knowing that Pestilence could force him back to his cell at any moment, whether he was finished or not.
In a few short minutes, Jaze's brief freedom was over. After managing to force the repulsive mush down his throat, Pestilence immediately grabbed his arm and forced him to stand. Again, they marched together through the corridor and back to his room. Once there, Pestilence shut the door and locked it.
Jaze laid down on his bed with only the sound of his stomach grumbling to keep him company. His meager meal was nowhere near enough to satisfy his appetite.
As he lay on his slab of a bed, he was surprised when he suddenly heard the tiny hatch on the bottom of his cell door slide open. Jaze sat up just in time to see a hand push a small tray of meat through it. The hand quickly disappeared and the hatch slid shut, the sound of footsteps fading quickly away.
Jaze kneeled on the floor and stared at the tray. He wouldn't be at all surprised if someone were to try and poison him. However, the more he thought about it, the more he figured that nobody who wanted to kill him would have any need to be sneaky about it. On the other hand, someone who wanted to be kind to him would have to be sneaky. Deciding it was worth the risk, he took the food and ate it eagerly. For the first time in a long time, he felt satisfied.
After that, it was a matter of what to do with the tray. He couldn't allow it to be found. When Jaze examined it more closely, however, he realized that it was little more than a small piece of bent sheet metal typically used for patching the steam pipes in the lower levels. Nobody would miss this. Jaze walked over to his narrow slit of a window and pushed the tray through where it fell into the sea of sand below.
It was at that moment that Jaze understood what it was like to eat too quickly after not having eaten enough for so long. His stomach turned on him fiercely and he had to lay down.
His stomach began to calm soon after and it wasn't long before he drifted off into a doze.
From almost the moment he arrived at the compound, Jaze felt that his mind was slowly being addled by a crippling sense of despair and inertia. It was easy for him to imagine that he was suffering the effects of depression, but knowing that and shaking the feeling entirely were two very different things. This time, however, it was different. As he lay on his bed between awake and sleep, the sense of dread was suddenly startling in its immediacy. Slowly, he opened his eyes and saw a face mere inches from his nose.
Maelstrom: You're awake.
Jaze scooted backwards so quickly and suddenly that he hit his head on the steel wall behind him. For a moment, he flinched at the pain, but quickly opened his eyes again, unwilling to lose sight of Maelstrom.
Jaze: Why are you here?
Maelstrom: If I cannot visit now, then when?
Jaze: How about tomorrow?
Jaze meant to say "never," but he was more nervous about what effect his sarcasm would have. He still felt half asleep and his mind was still too dull to consider the consequences of his actions.
Maelstrom, however, seemed to take what he said at face value, at first, and began pacing the room.
Maelstrom: Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow... creeps in this dusty path from death to death, for upon awaking, it is no more. The light, the darkness, and then the light again, yet still tomorrow dies the instant it is born. The light is cruel, bringing with it death once more.
Maelstrom paused and suddenly lunged towards Jaze.
Maelstrom: Every day, for all time, begins with death. Shall I grace you with my presence upon such a sorrowful occasion?
Jaze said nothing and only tried to squeeze himself into the wall as tightly as possible. Maelstrom reached up and placed his hand on Jaze's temple.
Maelstrom: Yours is a most interesting mind. It is one unlike that which I normally encounter. Such well developed hopes, dreams, and fears. And you, within, are calling out to... a rabbit.
Jaze's fear instantly turned to horror, wondering how Maelstrom could know such a thing.
Maelstrom: Ah, now I understand better. There is a rabbit on my planet and before now, I knew not from whence he came. I must be cautious if the rabbits are travelling the galaxy once again.
Jaze: Don't you touch him!
Maelstrom released his hand from Jaze's head and began to pace the room once more.
Maelstrom: I do not take orders from you. Nevertheless, one rabbit is not worth expending resources. More would be a problem. Once, the law was that all rabbits must be executed, but it would seem that law has been forgotten over the ages. The one rabbit is contained and is thus not a threat. He cannot learn too much in his current situation.
Jaze remained silent. For now, at least, he guessed that Maelstrom did not have any intention of doing anything to Toma, if it was indeed Toma he was talking about. He couldn't imagine anyone else. He knew Maelstrom was unpredictable, at best, and did not want to say anything that even had a remote chance of making him change his mind.
Maelstrom: Nevertheless, I must remain vigilant.
Maelstrom suddenly turned towards Jaze once again.
Maelstrom: Do you have any cheese?
Several moments of stunned silence passed. Jaze was worried about Toma, but the question caught him so completely unaware that he couldn't bring himself to speak. Maelstrom glared at him. He did not appear to be joking.
Jaze: Um... no, I don't.
Maelstrom: That's too bad. I like cheese. Everyone should have some cheese. I'll make sure you get some cheese.
Jaze was about to utter a befuddled "Thank you," when the door burst open with a bang.
Thirteen: There you are! I have been looking all over this place for you!
Jaze hoped beyond imagination that Thirteen was not talking about him. He was relieved when he marched up and took Maelstrom by the arm.
Maelstrom: I wanted to talk with my friend.
Thirteen: Next time, invite him upstairs.
Jaze didn't like the sound of that. He didn't know which was worse. Going to see Maelstrom upstairs or Maelstrom coming to him.
Maelstrom: He doesn't have any cheese. Make sure everyone gets cheese.
Thirteen: I will make sure of it.
Thirteen walked Maelstrom over to one of the bodyguards.
Thirteen: Hold him here.
Thirteen turned and marched back into Jaze's room.
Thirteen: Chaos, you will tell no-one of this. Also, a warning. Maelstrom never, ever forgets what he says, so whatever he said to you... well, anyway...
Thirteen sighed and looked back at Maelstrom, standing just outside the doorway.
Thirteen: Where the hell am I going to find cheese?
Without another word, Thirteen left, and closed the door behind him.
All city pictures from SimCity 4